Cornus canadensis Bunchberry, Creeping dogwood Z 2-7
OUT OF STOCK
Small gentian flowers with golden eyes, spring into fall.
Can not ship to: New Hampshire
Size: 9-12” x 12”
Care: sun to part shade in moist soil
Native: temperate areas world wide
“Myosotis” is Greek meaning mouse ear for the leaf shape. Around 1390 Henry IV adopted soveigne vous de moy, Forget-me-not, as a symbol not to forget his reign. A German legend attributes the common name to a lover who, gathering the flower, cried out “forget-me-not” as he fell into the river and died. Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote: “The sweet forget-me-nots; That grow for happy lovers.” Persian poet Shiraz told another folk tale: an angel fell from heaven by falling in love with a “daughter of earth,”when they sat by a river twining Forget-me-not flowers in her hair. The angel was not allowed to return until the lovers planted Forget-me-nots in every corner of the earth, which they did, hand in hand. She then became immortal “without tasting the bitterness of death” and joined the angel in Paradise.
Native Ground cover Cornus canadensis
Also known as dwarf cornel, creeping dogwood. The votes are in! Canadians have spoken! A nation-wide contest to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary, sponsored by Master Gardeners of Ontario, has embraced the bunchberry, known as quatre–temps in French and kawiscowimin in Cree, as the winner. Was then turned down by the Heritage dept due to the Maple leaf already taking the spot.
A beautiful and unique species of dogwood, prevalent throughout Canada from cool, moist woodlands to mountain ranges and sphagnum bogs. These mat-forming stoloniferous species are deciduous, sending up distinctive dogwood leaves in spring, followed by white flowers (actually showy bracts) late spring to summer. If pollinated, clusters of vibrant red berries form against a beautiful backdrop of bronze-red fall colour. Ideal for smaller plantings under conifers, in combination with other native woodland species or ferns. This plant needs a bit more moisture than most of our other ground covers but very popular and requested often. So decided to add it in 2017 and ship them also. If your garden soil is light-textured or gravelly, blend in compost and peat moss for moisture retention. Plant at the soil surface and mulch thinly (1-2″); conifer needles make great mulch for this plant. Direct afternoon sun and wind exposure can burn leaves. No ongoing maintenance needs to be required except watering during hot spells. Blooms white Zone 2-6
Part shade to full shade Blooms Spring-summer
Latin Name Pronunciation: kor’nuss
CULTURE: The Pagoda Dogwood (C. alternifolia) and Dogwoods with variegated leaves fare best in partial shade. Site Cornus canadensis in partial to full shade. For other Dogwoods, choose a site in full sun to part shade. Varieties grown for the color of their stems or autumn leaves will give their best performance in full sun. Grow Dogwoods in moderately rich, well-drained soil; they can take a soil that is evenly moist but not soggy. Seldom need fertilizing. Few insect or disease problems.
Space shrubs such as C. alternifolia, C. sanguinea, and C. sericea 3–5′ apart; they will become 5–9′ tall at maturity, depending on variety and pruning. Trees such as C. controversa, C. elliptica (aka C. angustata), C. florida, and C. kousa will grow from 10–30′ tall at maturity and should be spaced accordingly.
PRUNING: Stems of C. alba, C. sanguinea, and C. sericea provide the best color in full sun (and will resprout vigorously) when cut to within 12″ of the ground every 2 to 3 years. Prune in late January to very early March in Zones 4–7, earlier further south, before the sap begins to rise. Pruning of other shrubs and trees consists of removing any dead or weak growth and shaping as needed, in early spring.
GROWTH: Growth rates for C. florida and C. alternifolia varieties are slow when first planted, then moderate once established. C. kousa is slower growing. Other Dogwoods may grow 25″ or more a year if conditions are good.
SUGGESTED USE: Plant shrubs and trees behind perennials, in a shrub border, along a roadside or by a pond. C. canadensis is lovely as a ground cover or in a wild flower garden.
Over the weekend — as a one of many gardening-related Mother’s Day presents to myself — I planted seven bunchberry plants, just babies in 4-inch pots.
Also known as Cornus canadensis or Cornus unalaschkensis, it is basically a creeping dogwood groundcover, just the thing, I thought, to fill in the part-shade space under a cedar in my Edmonds garden.
Everything thing about bunchberry is cute — its leaves, its flower brachs, even its red berries.
I fell in love with this native wonder in the Olympic Mountains in my many years hiking there and was determined to master it in my own garden, despite its fussy reputation.
Immediately after planting it, however, I of course stumbled websites that said bunchberry is “extremely heat sensitive” and known for its “inability to survive in summer soils warmer than 65 degrees.“
Um, is soil temperature hotter than the air temperature? What?
Confused, I sought advice from the Snohomish County Master Gardeners, who said that bunchberry is indeed finicky, but that is has little to do with soil temperature.
Bunchberry is fussy, they said, almost everywhere.
What’s the secret? Moisture, said some. Rotting cedar pieces near the roots, said others. It’s a mystery, others said.
Indeed, this was such a hot topic on the master gardener forum that I decided to compile the responses.
Here’s my takeaway: If your bunchberry dies, it’s not your fault. And that is good news for you if you hate to feel guilty about plant death.
Even some of the local master gardeners have been confounded by this desirable little dogwood.
If you can get bunchberry to grow, my hat is off to your green thumb. I can’t tell you how often we have planted it on the remains of the ancient stump in the backyard. When we moved in here, it was covered with the stuff, but it gradually disappeared. I recently planted four plants again and am keeping my fingers crossed: Three of them have bright green new leaves, so we’ll see if they are there a year from now.
“One thing I have heard about this native is that it is hit and miss. It has been known to do great in areas that are not appropriate and known to do poorly in perfectly adapted sites. Not sure if that helps.”
“I have lots of bunchberry growing in my front yard, in shade, in part shade and some in full sun, four blocks from your house — no problems in wintering over and it even is doing well in fairly dry soil. I you need more plants, stop by as I am editing some out most of the time. They do like to spread when well-established though.”
” ‘Encyclopedia of Northwest Native Plants’ by Robson, Richter & Filbert: Cornus unalaschkensis (bunchberry): Shade, part sun or dappled light, moist acidic soil with lots of organic matter. Often slow to establish and may benefit by adding some chunks of rotting wood to the planting hole to act as underground nurse logs. Lovely groundcover to plant among fern and shrubs in the shade garden. Plant it along paths, in logs or stumps or near a water feature in the wildlife garden, where birds can enjoy the fruits.”
“Great topic. I love this, but my one try with it was dry shade and it shriveled quickly. Don’t put it under a hemlock tree unless you are irrigating it directly (and maybe not even then). Anyway, I’m looking forward to hearing the answers on this one.”
“I have an area where it flourishes that gets no direct sun but I think the secret is the moisture. It doesn’t like to dry out, probably because the roots are very shallow. I never knew it was called bunchberry until last year. I just always called it creeping dogwood because the flowers are so perfectly like the tree.”
“They like an acid, gritty soil, somewhat damp for most of the year, so says Kruckeberg in “Gardening with Native Plants.” I think you will need to worry more about the moisture than the soil temperature.”
“It is a really wonderful plant once it gets established and this part of the world is very well suited to it. We’ve had several plants in the ground for a couple of years, and they are thriving in the same conditions you describe. The foliage is lovely, the flowers very sweet, and the fall color and berries are beautiful. In other words, everything we love about dogwood trees is there in the groundcover.”
“I have it planted in the Ethnobotanical Garden at McCollum Park and it seems to be doing very well. It took a while for it to get established (about a year or so), but once it got used to conditions (almost full sun in my plot at first, now it’s getting more shade as the shrubs and trees I’ve planted there are growing). One thing it likes is moisture. You don’t need to keep it wet, but it appreciates a drink when it’s really dry.”
“I also have planted some under a cedar in my yard. It is tolerating almost full shade, but, then again, I need to water it every now and then. Interestingly, it seems to be thriving better at McCollum Park than my yard. I was so excited when it got its first blooms (white bracts). Since both plantings are new, they haven’t produced many berries yet. The plant does seem to slow down when it’s hot, but so far it has tolerated the reflected heat from the driveway at McCollum Park (across from the stream construction on the southwest side of the office building).”
“I just now read one of your links from Paghat’s garden and it mentions that it does well near rotting cedar. That’s exactly the condition it is growing in at McCollum Park. My husband and I excavated a rotting cedar stump from our property specifically to use in the McCollum Ethnobotanical Garden that I adopted. The bunchberry is planted at the base of the stump and is doing very well.”
Thank you, Snohomish County Master Gardeners.