A Gardening Journal

Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: The Arch of Weeping Korean Dogwood

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It's Summer so, of course, plants are growing. But how much? If the goal is, simply, that they "grow up," you'll know only retrospectively: All of a sudden, you realize that they've become bigger. One of the delights of training plants onto a form—as, here, an arch—is that growth is obvious in process, even trackable, inch by inch, foot by foot. The plants don't just grow, they take shape. Eventually, they reach the Big Milestone: They're as large as desired. Here, a pair of weeping dogwoods have grown large enough to meet at the top of the arch. Today's the day they'll do so.

 

This arch is being clothed by a pair of rare weeping Korean dogwoods, Cornus kousa 'Kristin Lipka's Variegated Weeper'. The frame of the arch couldn't be simpler: a pair of ten-foot sections of rebar pounded into the ground, with a twenty-foot length curved informally (i.e., by hand) and then tied to them to form the arch's crest. The result is a curve nine feet high, whose sides are a pair of straight legs eight feet apart. Less than a year ago, there were three or four feet of bare rebar at the center of the curve. No more: The tips of new growth of each tree of the pair are nearly touching.

 

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On either side, a quick tie with twine brings the leaves of the tips together.

 

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Now the arch's fuller formation is a matter of shape, not overall size. The tips of the leading stems from each tree will continue to lengthen and, because this is a weeping cultivar, their tendency will be to follow the arch's downward curves naturally. As additional side stems emerge, they'll weep, too. In a year, the entire arch will be a shaggy band of growth a foot or two thick.

 

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Clipping side stems that weep too far is then the only tidying the arch will need. If I do this clipping just after the flowers have faded in July, new growth might still have time to mature before frost, such that this tree will not just be a variegated arch of growth, but one with flowers, too. 

 

Here's how to grow variegated weeping Korean dogwood, both when trained as an arch and when free standing. You can also see how quickly this cultivar grows: Just a year ago, there was still three or four feet of the arch frame to cover.

 

 
 
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