Englishman Mark Catesby, visited the British Colonies in America during the 18th century to study the flora and fauna. His exquisite illustration of the flowers of our native dogwood (conus florida) helped focus attention on this graceful tree.
English landscape designers, such as Capability Brown, imported these and other American natives to use in parklands surrounding the great houses of their wealthy clients. Our eastern redbud (cercis Canadensis) flowers at the same time as the dogwood.
A myriad of clusters of purplish buds appear on its dark limbs before it leafs out. Both the dogwood and the redbud also provide autumn interest. The redbud’s heart shaped leaves turn yellow, and the dogwood displays red berries and burgundy foliage.
In the mid 19th century, the Japanese dogwood (cornus Kousa) became available. They bloom later than our natives, have elegant horizontal branches and are more trouble free.
Danish born Jens Jensen one of the first US environmentalist garden designers, emphasized the importance of using plants that adapt to a site. But he said that landscapes should be an interpretation of nature, not an exact replica.
So while we cherish our natives, if we add a Japanese dogwood to our landscape that is a good choice too.