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I like this plant because of the form it takes with the branches forming distinctive layers or tiers, hence its common name.
It forms a small rounded tree that will eventually reach about 8m high with a similar spread. The leaves are bright green with a creamy-white edge that produces tints of red and purple in the autumn before winter leaf loss.
Clusters of small white flowers sit above the foliage in early summer followed by small black fruit in late summer.
Because of its growth habit, the wedding cake tree requires little maintenance, doesn't require pruning and if it is planted in a suitable location it will be happy for years.
Plant in full sun or partial shade and provide good, fertile, well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter mixed in.
With its slow growing habit, Cornus controversa `Variegata' makes a fine specimen tree for the home garden providing there is enough room for its horizontal spread.
It can be used as a lawn specimen or in a border where perennials can be underplanted beneath the spreading branches.
• Stephen Bishop is collection curator of the Clive Lister Garden at Dunedin Botanic Garden.