“You know how you can spot a dogwood tree?” I ran my hand down the trunk of one at the Duke Gardens.
“By its bark,” I said. And then giggled. It’s dumb, I know, but it’s one of those things I remember from my ecology classes at the University of Georgia.
I can identify dogwood trees now, thanks to that joke, and ours is finally blooming. When the cherries, pears, and redbuds were blossoming, I couldn’t figure out why our dogwood wasn’t full of flowers too. Shouldn’t it come early with the other blooming trees?
In my home state of Georgia, I remember dogwoods being my favorite part of spring. They were the only flowering tree I knew, and when I was in college in Athens, where trees stripped bare in winter, dogwoods flowered before any green reappeared in the woods. I’d drive the three and a half hours from the foothills of the Appalachians to my home on the Georgia coast, and all through the forest, in the otherwise brown understory, I would see small trees dotted with white blossoms. Dogwoods.
I photographed our dogwood here in Virginia during the time of the cherry, pear, and redbud blooms. The dogwood flowers were small and green.
I thought they’d be peaking the same time as the other flowering trees, so I wondered, Do we have a different kind of dogwood? I had never watched a dogwood flower up close before, so I didn’t know if that was all they’d do, or if the flowers would grow.
The flowers grew. They took their time. Over a period of three weeks, they slowly spread their celadon petals, and they deepened to a rich white.
Maybe I’m remembering wrong about the earliness of dogwoods in Georgia. Maybe they seemed first because they were only. Either way, I love that we have one in our garden. I’m sitting with it now, in fact.
Birds trill, a breeze moves the branches, white clouds drift in a blue sky, and we have a flowering dogwood tree.