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Cornus Controversa Variegata - Help

My beautiful tree which has been in the ground about 15 years but has only ever grown to about 8 feet has got severe dieback on the branches. It's always had the odd bit that died back but now it is extending to large branches. Does the tree have a shelf life or is it the drought as we have had virtually no rain since the spring. It had a lot of growth this year below the graft which I took off recently but to no avail!


  • yorkshireroseyorkshirerose North YorkshirePosts: 574
    Have you a photo, please?
    A gardener's work is never at an end  - (John Evelyn 1620-1706)
  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 28,587
    Drought.   You need to give it water by the bucketful in a drought especially when it's dry so early on when it's trying to produce new growth and foliage.

    I suggest you post a photo if you can but if the dieback is bad and the rootstock is taking over it's probably best to take it out, refresh the soil with plenty of well rotted garden compost and some manure and plant another this autumn so it can get its roots down over winter.    You will still need to water it in dry periods every year as it seems drought is going to be a regular event.. 
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • HelixHelix 704m altitude...Posts: 631
    The deciding factor for me would be whether what remains has a decent structure to recover the shape of the tree. A wedding cake with a huge chunk out of it would not look pretty!   And if it has lost its leader then even if another one takes over it could look uneven. 

    I agree with others that it’s drought.  We have one of a similar age, and the last couple of years have had to water it from time to time.   Luckily it is in a prominent position so we spot it immediately if the leaves start to flop.  

  • Not techno savvy so took a while to figure out how to put in photos, also had to get new batteries for camera! Tree looks very sick, I think the suggestion for taking it ut due to the weird shape is the one I will go for as the leader is not growing.
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 82,291
    I agree with the drought diagnosis. Being that close to a large leylandii hedge is a testing situation for any large shrub, let alone a Cornus (which loves damp situations) in a year following a protracted summer drought and an unusually dry winter. ☹️ 
    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

  • Thanks for all your comments. The 'leylandii' is a an overgrown yew 'lollipop on a plinth' topiary in the next much lower border so does not impact the roots of the cornus. I think having looked at it again it will have to come out and whatever I plant in its place will have to get more water than the regular perennial.
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