From ground-hugging Cornus canadensis to the tall and elegant Cornus nuttallii, our native dogwoods are elegant plants with their soft, snowy bracts surrounding greenish, purple tipped flowers. Dogwoods evolved along with indigenous people, who used their wood for tool handles, bows and arrows; and medicinally counted on the dogwood for help with stomach ailments, and to purify the blood. Unfortunately in recent years, the western or Pacific dogwood tree is being decimated by the fungal disease anthracnose, which kills it branch by branch.
Fortunately there are healthier alternatives, like Cornus 'Eddie's White Wonder', which is a disease-resistant cross between Cornus nuttallii and Cornus florida. The flowers are larger (up to 4" across) than the native dogwood. It has red fall color and winter fruits to recommend it through the year, and is adaptable enough to serve as a street tree - busy Roy Street on lower Queen Anne is lined with dozens of 'Eddie's White Wonder' in full bloom at the moment. Another robust alternative is Cornus kousa, an Asian cousin which flowers a bit later, with an especially graceful shape and showy, edible fruit. C. kousa var. chinensis 'Milky Way' is a Great Plant Pick selection, ideal for our climate.
The photo below was taken at REI's Seattle store last week. You can see how the dogwood's pale blooms stand out like a beacon on a dark, rainy day. I believe these dogwoods are Cornus 'Eddie's White Wonder', which you can see blooming en mass right now at the Olympic Sculpture Park.