Cornus alternifolia

2013 – Alternateleaf Dogwood

The Alternateleaf Dogwood is a small flowering tree that grows 25-30ft tall. It is named for its alternate arrangement of leaves which differs from other dogwoods which all have opposite leaves. The tree may also be referred to as the Pagoda Dogwood. This name describes the horizontal branching pattern of the tree which resembles the architecture of a pagoda and gives the tree a structural form that stands out in the landscape.

This dogwood’s small white flowers are more delicate than that of Cornus florida (Flowering Dogwood), but they are numerous and arranged in large clusters that can be 2-3” across. The glossy leaves in summer will eventually turn to maroon in fall, and the small fruit grown throughout the summer will ripen to dark blue drupes and serve as a coveted food source for wildlife. This tree is frequently wider than it is tall, and can be used to fill an area with its interesting form. With horizontal branching structure in the winter, white clusters of flowers in late spring, glossy green foliage in the summer, and good maroon color in fall, the Alternate Leaf Dogwood is a tree with multi-season interest that can be used as a stand-alone specimen or as part of an understory planting.

The Alternateleaf Dogwood is a partial shade plant that grows best in moist soil. While the tree will produce more flowers and stronger fall color in more sun, too much sun will stress the tree and increase the risk of pests and disease. Powdery Mildew, Leaf Spot and Dogwood Blight are some of the diseases that can be found on this dogwood, however, these are not typically devastating, and should not steer you away from this highly ornamental native.

Rhododendron maximum

2013 – Rosebay Rhododendron

The Rosebay Rhododendron is an evergreen multi-stemmed shrub with dark green foliage and clusters of white flowers. These shrubs grow wild in many mountain habitats where they can form dense thickets that can be up to 30ft tall. A more typical mature landscape size, however, is about 10-15ft tall and 7-10ft wide. The dense growth and evergreen foliage of these rhododendrons make good borders or screens in a landscape. The growing habit is fairly irregular which gives the plant an interesting structure. Because of this unique structure, branches from this plant are often cut and used to make furniture. Rosebay Rhododendrons also have clusters of white to pink flowers that can be made up of as many as 25 flowers, each about 1” across.

Plant this rhododendron in partial to full shade in areas with moist but well-drained soils. While the flowers provide a brief show in spring, the real landscape benefits of the Rosebay Rhododendron can be found in its deep, evergreen foliage creating an ideal backdrop for some of the showier plants in the home landscape.

Hexastylis shuttleworthii

2013 – Largeflower Heartleaf

The Largeflower Heartleaf is a small evergreen plant that is prized for its variegated evergreen foliage. Native to the Southern Appalachian Mountains, this small woodland plant can grow in deep shade and acidic soil. It is a clump former that spreads slowly by stolons. While it does take some time, the plant will eventually form a dense clump or mat that can serve as a multi-season groundcover in shade.

This heartleaf has triangular trumpet-shaped flowers which live up to the Heartleaf’s alternate name “Little Brown Jugs”. These speckled, dark purple flowers, although interesting, typically develop under the leaves which are held about 3-4” above the ground. While the flowers may be easily missed, the leaves are very showy with their dark green edges and white venation.

Grow this little plant as an accent or a ground cover in areas of shade. Some dappled light will produce better variegation between the dark green leaf edges and the silvery white leaf veins. The plant is best suited for moist soil with a low pH. Mulching the plant with extra leaf litter in the winter may help protect the plant in colder climates. While this heartleaf is slow to establish, the clumps that will eventually form can be divided to make more plants.