Archive for August, 2008

Private Asian Patio | dogwood*design project

Private Asian Patio | dogwood*design project IMG_9455.JPG
Adele Medina O’Dowd, principal, dogwood*design, llc

contact me | or 202.255.0728

references available upon request

What was once a cramped entryway and overgrown walk that served little purpose has now been transformed into a serene and inviting contemplative asian garden with duel functioning stairway with seating in this intimate space.  The owner wanted to make the most of her small patio as a place to hold parties and as a personal natural healing retreat to read and play with her little dog, but her tiny side patio had become overgrown with shrubs, scrub trees and bamboo.  On top of this, there was only one spot in which to sit that, oddly enough, was completely un-shaded and hot.  So we transformed the space by removing a rickety old narrow stair from the breezeway to the patio into a wider more welcoming transition stair and japanese style “floating bench”.  A new low deck also expanded this area and provided a place for the owners BBQ which had been crammed into the passageway, in the way of entering guests.  Using the BBQ and a pretty existing dogwood, we devided the space into two garden rooms, one for dining and one for relaxing or conversation.  We added a stunning ipa fence and gates to protect the owner’s dog.  We kept some of the bamboo, adding a metal barrier 24″ deep underground to contain it only in the spots we wanted it.  We also added an additional more anthracnose resitant dogwood and some beautiful japonese anenomies.  What is so wonderful about this project is the owner’s personality was so closely tied to the garden design.



Cornus florida | American Dogwood

Cornus florida | American Dogwood

Native to MD and the East Coast Piedmont woodlands, yes, I admit that I love them. I can’t help it. They were everywhere in Atlanta where I grew up and definitely have a southern charm.  Dogwoods are so happy. Their upturned swooping branching habit creates the illusion of floating blossoms when they bloom in April before the folliage. They are at home in almost any type of landscape design, formal and informal. They look great in mass or as a focal point specimen. I’ve even seen them used succesfully as a screen.

Dogwoods should be planted in shade, since they are an understory tree.  This is very important to successful growing conditions and preventing undue stress which could make them suseptible to disease.  Dogwoods have been famously suffering from an “anthracnose” in recent years which can kill a healthy tree in a couple of seasons.  The first noticeable symptoms are when leaves turn fall color and drop early, even in July.  If you see this begin to happen while it is only affecting a few leaves, you still have a chance of preventing the disease from taking over completely, but you must act by cleaning up any fallen leaves and removing any new water sprouts which tend to spread the disease.  There are many good articles on this topic.  Here is one from Clemson.



The name “dogwood” may have been originated from the Gaelic term “dag”, a pointed tool used to punch leather or meat. Another possibility comes from England. Years ago, people there used the bark of the bloodtwig dogwood (Cornus sanguinea) to bathe mangy dogs. On this continent, flowering dogwood has been used by Native Americans to make scarlet dyes and tinctures. Although the fruits are poisonous to humans, in the late 1700s, colonists made a tea from dogwood bark to reduce fevers and soothe colds. The wood of the dogwood tree is used today to make small tools and ornaments. It has been under cultivation in North America since the 1730s. Today, flowering dogwoods are popular landscaping trees. They are slow growing (often only a few centimeters per year in dense shade), resilient, and beautiful.

‘Cherokee Cheif’ available, heavy fruiting 15′ tall
ZONES HARDINESS | SUN OR SHADE ….. 5 – 9 | full sun to full shade
GROWTH RATE ….. medium
HEIGHT / WIDTH ….. 20′-30′/7′ to 15′
PLANT SHAPE & BRANCHING ….. Loose, rounded; many horizontal and ascending branches
LEAF FORM & SHAPE ….. 1.5″-3″ obovate, impressed veins, obtusely serrated, thin, light
LEAF ARRANGEMENT ….. simple, alternate
LEAF COLOR ….. Deciduous | dark green, turning bright orange and soft red in fall
FLOWERS | small white in spring
BERRIES | beautiful bright orange red

SOIL does well in moist to dry and slightly alkaline
Native MD to FL and west to TX