Dogwoods are so important in my town that we have an annual Dogwood Festival, Dogwood Parade, Dogwood Pageant and Dogwood Ball. A stylized illustration of the unmistakable four-petaled dogwood flower graces the new public signage announcing the city limits and promoting the historic downtown and local sites. We all anticipate this most beautiful time of the year when the purple redbuds are still blooming, the azaleas are flashing their fiery magenta, and the pink and white dogwoods majestically unfold in our yards, our neighborhoods, in strip malls, at schools, and all over the downtown area. You may ask if all this dogwood over-kill eventually detracts from their appeal, but at least for me, the answer is a definitive “No!” I can’t get enough of these trees. I will drive out of my way to cruise through the neighborhoods and streets that have the best displays. We planted three in our backyard along the edge of the woods last Fall, and anxiously checked the bud formation at the end of winter, waiting for those beautiful blooms to begin. Do I prefer the white or the pink varieties? We planted the classic white ones, but I really can’t decide.
There is something special about a tree that becomes a symbol for a whole community. It is one thing that bring us together, that we can all agree on. Finally, a unifying tradition that is not political or controversial. Who can object to beautiful, long-lived, blooming trees all over your town? (While I don’t follow the Dogwood Pageant or attend the Dogwood Ball, I fully appreciate the numerous public plantings.) I enjoy this communal love of the dogwood, but I also have more personal ties to this tree. The house I grew up in had a white dogwood centered in the front yard. My mother loved this tree and taught me to notice it when I was a child. I looked forward to the dogwood blooming as if it were Christmas in April. It’s arrival was like turning a corner in the year, heading toward warmer days, playing outside, the Spring art shows, the May and June birthday parties for my sister and I, the family picnics, and then summer vacation. These memories still stir something in me when I see the dogwoods begin their annual show.