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Planning for the Spring: The Dogwood Trail Experience

Flowering Dogwood bloom

One of the questions our Guest Services staff here at Crystal Bridges hear a lot at this time of year is “What time will the dogwoods be in bloom?”  Right now the trees are all still brown and bare, but we can see buds beginning to arise on the tree branches–hope that spring really will arrive this year.  It’s tough to say when, exactly, the peak bloom time will be, however. Generally it’s mid-April, but can arrive early or late depending on what the weather does!  Nevertheless, Alyssa Wilson, our Guide Program Manager, must plan early in mapping out a Dogwood Experience Tour route on the grounds. –LD

Dogwoods2 (website-Trails and Grounds- Dogwood Trail)Winter weather has a tendency to make planning for our spring Trail Experience a challenge.  This winter, in particular, with its numerous snowfalls and low temperatures, tried its best to discourage our efforts.  Nevertheless, the show must go on, and on February 10th, the trails were finally clear enough for a tour route planning session.  I bundled up to meet staff horticulturist, Cody George, and walk the trails to determine the new route for our upcoming Dogwood Trail Experience.  The high on that frigid Monday was twenty-eight degrees Fahrenheit.  I remember scribbling notes in my notebook and looking down to find the ink in my pen had frozen.  As the cold and wind began to creep beneath my coat and layers, I found it hard to get excited about the early spring bloomers that seemed so far in the future.

Dogwoods (website-Trails and Grounds- Dogwood Trail)Cody seemed unaware of the freezing temperatures however.  I find that the minute he steps onto the trail to begin discussing this plant or that shrub, I can literally see the excitement he has for the subject matter appear all over his face.  Even on this cold day, his enthusiasm was contagious and helped me to warm my spirits and focus on the task at hand.  We began to locate the dogwoods and to notice the multitude of buds clinging to the branches, waiting for warm weather to coax the appearance of their magnificent blooms.

Flower Dogwood bloomsOne issue that presented itself as Cody and I considered a route were the numerous and wide-ranging locations of the dogwoods on the grounds.  Let’s begin with our native beauty—the Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida).  You will find hundreds of these stunning dogwoods along our Rock Ledge and Dogwood Trails.  These trees have been thriving in our forest for many years, long before the museum and the trails were created.  This understory tree, with its rattlesnake bark, really adds to the natural landscape:  its trunk curving to create abstract forms as it pushes forth to reach the sunlight streaming through the canopy.

Stellar Pink Dogwood

Stellar Pink Dogwood

The Flowering Dogwood is not the only species to be found on our grounds, however.  To date, there are eight other species including Aurora (Cornus florida x Cornus kousa), Cherokee Princess (Cultivar of Cornus florida), Constellation (Cornus florida x Cornus kousa), National (Cultivar of Cornus kousa), Starlight (Cornus kousa x Cornus nuttalii), Stellar Pink (Cornus florida x Cornus kousa), and Venus (Cornus kousa x Cornus nuttalii).

Here's our sketch of where the various dogwood species appear on Crystal Bridges' grounds.

Here’s our sketch of where the various dogwood species appear on Crystal Bridges’ grounds.

We would of course love to feature all nine of our dogwood species on our tour, but because of their locations in diverse areas on our grounds, this is unfortunately not a possibility.  We were excited to discover a route that features five of these species though.  The route is not the easiest that we offer and does include steep steps as well as a steep incline, but we feel that guests will appreciate the opportunity to compare five of the species and to learn about other lovely spring bloomers, works of art, and even a little bit about the architecture of the Museum and history of the grounds along the way. This tour is sponsored by The Coleman Company.  I want to encourage everyone to come out and celebrate the arrival of spring and the Dogwoods with us this April!  If you are interested in participating on our Dogwood Seasonal Trail Experience, meet us on Walker Landing on a Monday, Wednesday, or Friday at 11:30 am.  This trail experience debuts on April 2 and continues through May 16.

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