Wednesday, January 25, 2012

'Empress of China' Evergreen Dogwood


In the fall of 2010 I took a little trip to Louisville to visit my daughter. Both of my girls are great gardeners and have a love for plants just as I do. That being said I guess you know what Liz and I did during my visit. We visited a few of her favorite nurseries. Louisville is about three hours from my home in northern Tennessee but I happen to think Louisville is one of the best cities to visit nurseries so I will often do so when I visit my daughter. The next best city to visit nurseries within a short driving distance of my home would be Evansville Indiana. You will almost never find me in a nursery in Clarksville or Nashville. I just can't find good deals on the plants I desire for my garden but nursery shopping might be best left for another post. Today's post is all about a small dogwood tree that my daughter and I both purchased during a very windy and dry fall day in 2010 during this particular trip. 

The nursery we visited is a unique nursery called Beryl Williams Landscaping and Nursery. It is unique in that its owner is a longtime plant lover and is always on site. I love nurseries when you can actually talk to the owner as he or she is usually the most knowledgeable person you'll find on site. I once called a nursery in Evansville to see if it was open and when a man answered the phone I quickly said with relief, "Oh, you're still there!" To which the reply was "Yes, it's amazing to me too!". The owner of that nursery was a very old man who was thankful for each day he was alive let alone working at the nursery-as I found out when I later visited the nursery. Back to Beryl Williams, not only is the owner on site but the son of the owner has his own little nursery on site as well. The son's name is Brian and he specializes in tropicals. The greenhouses were a lovely sight on this fall day with lots of tropical and exotic-to me anyhow-plants growing in them. Not only do tropicals grow in greenhouses at the nursery but they also grow outside! It was very strange seeing 20 foot tall palm trees in Louisville. The reason it was strange is that Louisville is a solid Zone 6 growing zone with temperatures ranging from -10F to 105F so growing tropicals outside is really pushing it. There were lots of wrapped palm trees, agaves in rocky hills, tetrapanax and many more cool plants-all doing well. But the one plant my daughter and I were interested in was an evergreen dogwood. The owner (Mr. Williams)  was not sure about its hardiness and had only two pots of the plant for sale. He was trying it out as he put it.  There's nothing like a good challenge to intrigue me and an evergreen dogwood sounded too cool to pass up.

Upon doing some research on my evergreen dogwood I found that my book Dogwoods by Paul Cappiello and Don Shadow states that Cornus angustata 'Elsbry' (Empress of China ™)-the type of evergeen dogwood my daughter and I purchased is semi-evergreen in USDA hardiness zones 7-9. The book also says the tree has withstood temperatures of 0F without stem or bud damage. Too cool I thought-an evergreen dogwood. I've not had luck with Cornus floridus so I tend to migrate towards any dogwood that is not of that genus and one that is evergreen is quite a bonus. My daughter and I both purchased a plant and I'm happy to report that eighteen months later my plant is doing quite well and has grown at least 18" in the time it has been in the ground here at Tiger Gardens.  That is an impressive growth spurt but the tree is still only about three feet tall-so small yet.

I had to bump out my long Northside Shrub Border in order to accommodate the new tree but it was a really good move because the tree is quite happy in its growing conditions. The growing conditions I planted it in sees it getting some afternoon sun, probably about 3-4 hours, it is in good organic soil that can dry out due to tree roots but the area can also be moist at times, and I have a good organic mulch in place in the garden. The tree did not bloom last year but the leaves have stayed on it both last year and this and it is growing so fast that I am hopeful I'll get some blooms this year. It is reputed that when Empress of China blooms it is quite a sight. I've not seen one in bloom but am most excited for it....

in the garden.....

Check this post out for a lovely picture of Empress of China in bloom on Janet's blog

Words and Photos Property of In the Garden Blog Team, In the Garden


  1. How nice that you share a love of gardening with your daughters. The nursery sounds like a really good one. I'm looking forward to your blooms too.

  2. Thanks for the shout out! I am glad your Empress of China is doing so well. Keep us posted!

  3. Very cool tree! You've made me put that one on my list. Be sure to show pictures when it blooms!

  4. What a fun and an exciting nursery trip you had with your daughter. Wish we had more local nurseries here.

  5. I have seen pictures of a grown tree, in full bloom and it is a beautiful tree. Yours must be very happy to have grown so much in that time frame.

    On another subject....If you do not get the Profile mag in your paper you should go to and look up the January 15 - 21 issue. It has a good article I think you would be interested in. It is on Dale Chihuly. I remember that you had visited one of his shows and did a post on it. This article is fairly short but gives a good overview of his life, business and his latest HUGE project. If you can't find it let me know and I will send it to you. The name of the article is "Heart of Glass".

  6. Good morning everyone!

    Mom, I saw it and it was very good indeed. I enjoyed it very much. If I ever go to Seattle I'll have to visit the factory. Thanks!

  7. I don't have any luck with regular dogwoods, either. I was intrigued by an evergreen dogwood. I look forward to seeing the blooms. How nice that your daughters love to garden, too.

  8. That sounds like a winner. Will have to see if it will survive here. I need to replace the Flowering Cherry that fell over.

  9. It is always good when you can expand a garden to accommodate a much loved plant...

  10. Hello Tina,
    Great post on the dogwood. I clicked the link and looked at Janet's post, too. Wonderful tree, the dogwood! I did not know about the Evergreen Dogwood. I must look for one here in Mississippi.

    I keep reading blogs where someone says their zone with an 'a' or 'b' on it, so I went to a website that you can enter your zip code to find your zone. I live out in the country about halfway between two towns. I entered the zip code for one... zone 7a. I entered the zip code for the 7b.
    I live on the line!
    Have a great day!

  11. Hi Tina - new to the Raleigh area, one of the first things I purchased was a cornus elliptica, also evergreen, from Camellia Forest out in Chapel Hill. It's only a baby stick with purple leaves right now, and not of royal blood like yours, but just the idea of an evergreen dogwood is so cool.

  12. You will be very happy with the Empress, and yes when it blooms, it is spectacular.