I had a sapling gray dogwood planted in my small downtown backyard in Toronto by LEAF about 19 years ago. It has thrived and became much larger than I expected and much to my pleasure. However, it started getting dead branches in the past couple of years. I had them removed and last year the tree looked better than ever with a lot of new growth. However, this spring, almost a third of the tree is not producing leaves. I have clay soil but add compost and mulch. My yard is shady but the tree gets plenty of sun now that most of the branches are higher than the garage. It will break my heart to lose this tree and I’m hoping it can be saved. Any advice will be welcome.
Thanks for contacting Toronto Master Gardeners. Gray dogwoods are native shrubs that can adapt to a range of growing conditions. They also have few disease and pest problems. There are a few reasons why the tree is not leafing out normally. The cold spring in Toronto has meant that most plants are behind in their development. It is also possible that some buds were killed in the late frost that occurred in early May. The website listed below may help you assess whether the branches are still alive. If they are alive wait a little longer to see if the branches will leaf out. If they are dead, they should be pruned.
Another possibility is that the wet spring has caused the soil around the tree to become compacted. This will affect the roots and may lead to branches dying. This is more likely to occur with clay soils. For more information how to address soil compaction, review the following sites:
Good luck with your tree