The Dogwood Chase

Featured

Okay, so I’m a tree nerd. I know at least two others. (And, you know who you are.)

I woke up this morning at 5:00, and I was too excited to go back to sleep even though the alarm wasn’t set to go off until 7:00.

So, I got up and went out in my bathrobe and bare feet to listen to the birds singing up the sun and to contemplate my work of yesterday:

The cool morning air smelled especially sweet. It was a good time and place for plotting.

The plan was to be at English Gardens by the start of their “At-Risk Hour,” 8:00, so I could take some photos of the little dogwood and maybe of Kevin D., who had helped me pick it out Thursday. I needed to get there during the At-Risk Hour and before Dean and Nick from Singing Tree picked it up and brought it to my house to plant. Satisfied with the plan, I went back inside and made a special breakfast of French toast to kick off the special day.

Off to English Gardens

Because I can count the times I’ve left my house in the last 10 weeks to go somewhere in my car without resorting to having to use my toes, it seems to take me an even longer to leave with everything I need to navigate with less risk through the world. We almost made it out of the door by 7:50 for the 9-minute drive to English Gardens.

When we arrived at the English Gardens’ tree department, the overhead jets of water were up and running . No surprise. Craig wandered off to find some morning glories, and I went to find the Cherokee Princess that had been tagged for me on Thursday. But, she wasn’t where I had last seen her.

Tree guy Kevin D wasn’t coming in until 11:00, so another tree guy helped me. He said she would be in the backlot if she was sold and being picked up. When he walked around the fence, I sauntered around into the employees-only area with him. He went through the trees one by one with no success.

We went back around to the trees for sale, and both got wet looking for the Cherokee Princess. I did notice that someone had bought her sister, and taken her home with them; there were no more Cherokee Princess dogwoods available on site.

Yesterday’s weather: breezy and hot

We returned to the backlot. I had noticed it the first time and performed a silent tsk-tsk disapproval when The Other Tree Guy walked by it. When he went by it again without doing anything–in his defense, he was intent on finding my tree–I bent down and picked it up.

Apparently, the wind had blown this stick of a tree over. Had it been frying in the sun and 90-degree Memorial Day yesterday, the hottest day of the year thus far? Where was the rest of its rootball?

And, more importantly, when I picked the tree up, besides the sold tag, why was it decorated with a polka-dot ribbon that had my name on it?

The Cherokee Princess had been found. But even The Other Tree Guy didn’t give her good odds for surviving and sent me to the Customer Service counter for a refund, being that there were no other white flowering dogwoods of any variety for sale; the season was over here.

Plan B takes shape

On my way to Customer Service, I sent Emily Brent of Singing Tree the text: “Stop the presses.” Fortunately, she understood what I was trying to communicate.

It was clear that when manager Sean was paged from the Customer Service Desk, he didn’t believe my story. When he saw the tree for himself, however, he took a picture of the rootball to send to the nursery from whence it had come.

While I was waiting for him to refund the cost of the dogwood from my charge, I text Emily we were going to “brave going to Telly’s.” This was going to get done. Today.

She texted back that Kevin Bingham, her partner, was heading to Ray Wiegand’s Nursery on Romeo Plank Road in Macomb and would she like me to call and see if they had any Cherokee Princesses available.

As he was handing me my receipt, Sean mentioned there were Cherokee Princesses at two other English Garden locations. Nope. An underlying current of possibility was surfacing on this beautiful day.

We had just loaded the morning glories (Heavenly Blue) and two big pots of geraniums (one pot at $10 got you another one free) when Emily texted me back: “They have Cherokee Princess!”

East to Ray Wiegand’s Nursery!

I asked Siri to navigate to Weigand’s, a 32-minute drive, and we were off. The morning reminded me of leaving to go on vacation as kid. That kind of sky, that kind of freedom, that kind of anticipation.

Just for the record, I did raise the question of whether this was an “essential” trip. WWWS? (What Would Whitmer Say?) If the greenhouses and nurseries are open, are we only supposed to be purchasing their plants and trees via delivery? (Probably.)

I’d met Kevin when Singing Tree trimmed the Honey Locust that had me awake worrying at night (my first posting on this blog in February of 2019), and I trust him 100% to pick out a good tree.

And yet my car kept heading east.

Until we got here:

Sterling Places Plaza on Van Dyke (M-53), just north of Metropolitan Parkway (16 Mile Rd.) had a completely empty parking lot when I pulled in to read Emily’s latest text.

Emily texted “We have a change of plans.”

Although on Friday, Wiegand’s had had 20 London plane trees–the reason Kevin was heading there (for one)–today, they had zero.

West to Milarch Nursery!

So now, instead, Kevin was headed to Milarch Nursery on Haas Rd. in Lyon Township, where they had both London plane trees and Cherokee Princesses.

Siri got on it and west we went, about 45 minutes worth. (Taking the Wixom exit off I-696 and then a couple of miles on Grand River Ave. gets you in the vicinity).

What an amazing nursery! (Check out the aerial view of the nursery on the homepage of their website.)

To the Dogwoods!

The directions we received were to walk to a green dumpster–maybe a quarter of a mile–turn left and “walk two long city blocks” to the dogwoods.

The entrance road to the 27.5 acres that is Milarch Nursery, a four-generation family business (The green dumpster did not come into view right away.)

But before she gave the directions, one of the nursery staff, when I asked, said they had two types of white flowering dogwood: Cherokee Princess and Princess Emily.

I’d forgotten about Princess Emily, a variety I’d come across online before Arbor Day 2020. A newer variety of Cornus florida. This is all I’d been able to find out about the variety:

“‘Princess Emily’ Dogwood . . . is a selection of Cornus florida that has (unusual in a dogwood) a strong central leader. The spring flowers have rounded, white overlapping bracts.The leaves are very similar to Cornus kousa but have a glossy appearance and turn to a brilliant red color come fall. It also has a high resistance to powdery mildew and will show continual growth even in the drier parts of summer.”

— David Dermyer of Christensen’s Plant and Hardscape Centers in “Some New Trees for 2016”

I had taken Princess Emily out of consideration because of the “strong central leader.” Remember, I wanted the classic layered look. But this morning, I found myself excited to be actually able to compare two different varieties of white flowering dogwood.

Just as we got to “Dogwood Row(s)”, we ran into Kevin and together, the three of us first passed a number pink dogwoods to arrive at quite a number of 9.5-feet-tall white dogwoods in bloom.

Dualing Princesses

Had I ended up planting the Cherokee Princess from English Gardens, or had Kevin picked a Cherokee Princess out for me from Wiegand’s or Milarch’s, I would have been very surprised come spring, with the respect to the former, or if Kevin pulled up in my driveway with a Cherokee Princess in bloom from either other nursery.

I would have been sure the nursery had made a mistake. One look at the blooms, and I would have been positve I had a specimen of the “Appalachian Spring’ variety of dogwood. This was the variety about which I wrote in a posting a few days ago:

I don’t care for the space between and slight curl of the bracts.

But here at Milarch Nursery, for the first time, I was seeing dogwood bearing both their nametags and blossoms. And, I got a big surprise.

The Cherokee Princess: notice the narrowness of the “curly” bracts; notice the spaces between them.

But Princess Emily, on the other hand, had the squarish flower bracts I liked and some very shapely trees.

Of course, the first Princess Emily I picked out had been tagged by someone else. But, with Kevin’s helpful suggestions regarding branching, I picked out a second-best and had it tagged.

Meanwhile, Kevin went to look for London Plane trees. He received some inaccurate directions, and while he didn’t find the London Plane trees (the only one that the nursery had left was actually at the end of the rows of dogwood trees). But, while he was looking, he found a section of smaller dogwood trees, maybe 7 feet tall. He suggested I have a look as smaller trees have a better chance of surviving the planting.

I walked to the other section of dogwoods, and there she was. The fiirst tree since I started looking to whom I had an emotional reaction.

Elizabeth of Milarch Nursery tagging a ‘Princess Emily’ flowering dogwood for me

And just that easy, and with that much lead-up to it, the search was over.

Princess Emily, my chosen one among many

Yep, tree nerd.