Like the Star Magnolias, this tree was probably planted here because of its proximity to a steam line. (That’s not a guess, there is a Magnolia right next to it.) This little pocket on campus is a unique little microclimate, which is a gardener’s way of cheating zones.
Flowering Dogwood, Cornus florida, is a decidedly southern plant, hardy to zone 5, but just barely. Does best in Zone 6. Zone 5 means it can’t really take temperatures below -20, and this winter saw -22 at my house. Zone 6 is no lower than -10, so you can start to see how special this dogwood is. The actual flowers are puny little yellow things, but it is the bracts that command all the attention. White, although pink ones exist as well, they are effective in the landscape for at least two weeks. Their asset in the landscape is the horizontal structure of the tree, which can be used to break up a monotony of vertical lines, as most tall trees can seem when amongst them.
You can buy Flowering Dogwood around here, go to any large chain home center, they will be glad to sell you all sorts of plants that don’t live this far north. If you are lucky enough to have a microclimate like the front of Allen (and yes, I’m talking to you Middlebury town residents), brag about it on my friend’s blog, he’ll set you up, responsibly. Buy local, and buy from plant geeks, and you won’t go wrong.