Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today


NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.


NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.


New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.


Plant Profiles

Variegated Cornelian Cherry

Every Spring, Cornus mas takes me by surprise. Flowering in the early weeks of Spring—after witch hazels but before the rush of cherries and magnolias—the tree always has the stage to itself. 


Cornus mas Variegata fingers 042315 640


On mature trees, these tiny but bright flowers are borne in countless thousands, for a show that's enjoyable at long range and, as here, under low magnification. The reddish bark—only on stems that are just a year or two old—is another bonus. The bark of mature branches is a neutral tan-gray.


There are no flowers along the top foot and more of the stem below, the growth from the previous Summer. The lower portion of the stem—which formed the year before last—is where the flowers are. The upper portion will flower next Spring, in its third season; it's more usual for new stems to flower their second Spring.


Cornus mas Variegata showing stem tips still too young to have formed buds last Spring 042315 640


Will this year's flowering portion not bloom again? In other words, are Cornelian cherry flowers produced only by the portions of stems that are just entering their third year of growth? If that's the case, flowering always happens somewhat in the "shallow interior" of the tree's canopy. Not at the very surface, at the tips of growth forming that very season, as is the case with, say, Buddleja davidii, Lagerstroemia, Hydrangea arborescens, Hydrangea paniculataHibiscus syriacus, and Lespedeza. Nor on branches and even trunks of almost any age, such as Cercis canadensis, whose floral show occurs throughout the entire interior of its canopy.


If older branches of Cornus mas are no longer contributing to the floral show (and to the show of reddish bark), is there a way to get rid of the older growth and encourage more of the younger? By pruning, of course—but how and when? If Cornus mas is pruned each year, new stems will never become mature enough to flower. But if it's pruned to permit flowering—only every third year, say—then there's the two-year wait for the resultant new growth to mature enough to flower.


Even more puzzling is that some sources suggest that Cornelian cherry makes a good hedge. By definition, hedges receive pruning once a year at the minimum. Perhaps Cornelian cherry makes a good non-flowering hedge. 


I'll find out the best way to prune, because I've planted three Cornus mas barely three feet apart, and I'll be growing them into one large block of growth—a hedge, in other words. And my hedge will flower. Even better, after the flowering is done, the foliage will put in a second show, because I've planted Cornus mas 'Variegata' instead of the straight species. Its leaves are heavily margined with cream. Better still, because these variegated Cornelian cherries will be maintained at a dense and comparatively compact size, the cold-weather display of first- and second-year reddish twigs should be maximized. Cornus mas itself is normally thought of as a once-a-year wonder. If all goes well, when variegated Cornus mas is well pruned, it will provide three shows a year.


Stay tuned, then, for a look at this tree in leaf and, longer term, for news on just now to prune for compactness, heavy bloom, and plenty of colorful Winter twigs.



Here's how to grow Cornus mas, itself. The hardiness and handling of Cornus mas 'Variegata' are similar, with these exceptions in its culture: The variegated foliage is less tolerant of strong sun and drought stress than that of the all-green species. Site 'Variegata' in soil that is definitely moisture retentive; even so, a thick mulch will further enhance the soil's ability to retain moisture as well as remain cooler and, thus, less able to evaporate water.  Further, site where the tree receives some shade beginning in mid-day.

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