Cornus controversa 'Variegata'
wedding cake tree
- Position: full sun to part shade
- Soil: deep, fertile, moisture-retentive soil
- Rate of growth: slow-growing to average
- Flowering period: June
- Hardiness: fully hardy
Known as the wedding-cake tree, because of its distinctive, horizontal, tiered habit, this tree makes a lovely focal point for a small to medium-sized garden. It has bright green leaves with bold, creamy-white margins, which turn red-purple in autumn and produces clusters of white flowers in June. Although it tolerates dappled shade, it performs best in fertile, moisture-retentive soil in full sun.
- Garden care: Incorporate a quantity of well-rotted garden compost or horse manure in the planting hole to improve the moisture-retentive qualities of the soil. The tree requires no regular pruning, since this would interfere with its graceful, tiered habit.
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Q:I have a cornus controversa which was planted about five years ago. This year there seems to be only one branch budding and the rest of the tree has died back. Any ideas what might have caused this?Asked on 6/4/2015 by Lynnie from South nottinghamhsire
This is such a shame but it is difficult to know exactly what could have caused it from your description. If they were kept well fed and watered, then they may have succumbed to a disease as they are prone to a couple that can cause severe dieback. The first is dogwood anthracnose, which causes spots on the leaves and flower bracts and phytopthora, which is seen as rotting at the roots and collar of the plant.Answered on 8/4/2015 by Anonymous from crocus
Q:I have a 10 year old Cornus controvera 'Variegata', which has developed a nice shape, and has reached about 10-12 foot tall. This spring I've noticed a new shoot has appeared from near the base of the trunk. It has already reached about 3 feet, and has begun to send out a horizontal tier. I'm worried this will compete with the main stem and spoil the shape of the tree. Should I remove it at its base?Asked on 25/3/2015 by Grumpyoldwoman from Manchester
These plants generally require little pruning, however if this is going to ruin the shape of the tree, or if this new shoot is emerging from below the graft union, it should be removed as soon as possible.Answered on 2/4/2015 by Anonymous from crocus
Q:A friend of mine has a wedding cake tree that a gardener pruned thinking it needed shaping.. however, he cut several branches from the lower part of the tree... My friend is devastated.. as it has lost the wedding cake shape... Can the damage be remedied?Asked on 17/2/2015 by lizzie from Tunbridge Wells Kent
What a shame, but unfortunately the lower branches won't regrow.Answered on 4/3/2015 by Anonymous from crocus
Q:Hello, Do you do larger wedding cake tree's? if so what height, and will acid soil be ok? I always put a lot of manure into my garden so I guess that will be alright.
I was hoping to put a tree in at about 6 to 10 feet high.
look forward to hearing from you.
thank-you AnnAsked on 7/12/2014 by Ann from United Kingdom
Unfortunately we only have one Cornus controversa 'Variegata' which comes in a 3lt pot. Although the height of these can vary, usually they are about 30cm tall and will grow well in an acidic soil. Hope this helps.Answered on 8/12/2014 by Anonymous from crocus
Q:The lowest branch has no leaves now, though all other branches healthy and in full leave. Branch is bare red wood, some sign of buds (I think). Do we prune this branch back - or leave to grow?Asked on 9/1/2014 by Petra from Wolverhampton, England
I would leave it especially if you can see leaf buds along the branch. You probably won't see any new growth, or leaf this year but hopefully next spring new foliage will come through.
Hope this helpsAnswered on 9/3/2014 by Anonymous from crocus
Q:My wife bought one of these trees from you, and the plant is showing a good "wedding tree" shape where the new growth is taking place. The older growth near the bottom isn't quite as attractive and spoils the overall shape. Can I prune it just by removing these and clearing the trunk? If so, when? And how close to the main stem should I go?Asked on 8/16/2014 by bronrug from North Wales
These trees resent hard pruning, so if you want to remove a couple of branches it is important that that you take it slowly, tackling perhaps one branch each year - any pruning should be undertaken from autumn to early spring. The first thing you should do is (using a sharp saw) make a cut about a third of the way through the branch from the bottom side of the stem, working upwards. This cut should be around 30cm away from the main trunk. The second cut should be from the top side of the branch around 5cm further away from the trunk. The branch will fall away as you make this cut, leaving you with a 30cm long stump. This removes the weight of the branch and avoids the risk of the branch tearing off lots of bark and leaving a big wound. Finaslly, you can then make a neat cut, removing the stump to a point just past the 'collar' (ie the swollen bit where it meets the main stem).Answered on 8/18/2014 by helen from crocus
Q:Hello I was wondering if you could help me, I recently planted a wedding cake tree in my garden with fertilizer and flooded the hole, I have watered it three times a week since planting but the leaves seem to be curling and look as though they are drying up, can you tell me where I am going wrongAsked on 7/30/2014 by Carol from Channel islands
This could be caused by a number of things. It may be that too much fertiliser was applied, and this could cause scorching, or the plants foliage may be getting scorched by the wind. Also, it is possible that the plant is getting too much water. The ideal is to thoroughly soak the surrounding soil, then wait until the soil gets reasonably dry before repeating the process.Answered on 8/4/2014 by helen from crocus
Q:Is this tree unsuitable to grow as a border specimen next to a fence? I'm guessing so due to it's layering appearance. Would the stem be ok close to the fence with just the upper branches over the fence? How far from a fence should it be planted? Thank you.Asked on 7/24/2014 by DizzyDahlia from Yorkshire
Ideally this should be planted in an open space where it can spread as its tiered branches are one of its best features. If however there is nowhere else for it, then I would plant it at least 1m away from the fence. Keep in mind that as the tree will spread to around 8m across, it will encroach onto your neighbours property.Answered on 7/28/2014 by helen from crocus
Q:How would I take a cutting off my wedding cake tree...??? or make another thank .........maggieAsked on 7/8/2014 by Maggie from Doncaster
These plants are mainly propagated by grafting, which is quite a specialised skill that does take some time to master. I would not really advise attempting it unless you have a bit of prior experience.Answered on 7/8/2014 by helen from crocus
I was wondering if this tree would be possible to grow in a large bespoke pot... and if so any advice on the minimum this pot size could be in order to give the tree the best possible chance of flourishing.Asked on 6/30/2014 by curlsrock from south west
Ideally this would be much happier planted out in the ground, however it is possible to keep it in a pot for a few years provided it is kept well fed and watered. It is currently in quite a small pot, but ideally it should be potted up into something at least 30 cm in diameter (45cm would be better). In a year or two you can then move it up to something around 60cm.Answered on 6/30/2014 by helen from crocus
Certain shrubs have a tiered architectural shape, that’s broader than taller, with almost horizontal branches that really show off the flowers to full advantage. These make excellent specimens stretching over a lawn, or placed strategically in the garRead full article