last updated 15/02/2022

Evergreen Cornus

We have a number of flowering dogwoods in the collection which are evergreen. There is considerable uncertainty and confusion surrounding the classification of many of them as to exactly which species they belong too. However, the important thing is that they all follow the same principle as our deciduous flowering dogwoods, in that they produce beautiful bracts surrounding the tiny true flowers in summer, typically providing floral interest from June potentially through into August or even September, dependant a little on the weather. Many of them then go on to give similar strawberry-like fruit. Since these are fully evergreen, the leaves don't change colour in the autumn. Instead we can enjoy the often glossy foliage all winter. These are all fundamentally hardy in most of the UK, but as with any evergreen, they can be vulnerable to desiccating wind if the ground is frozen. Thus they will be tolerant of an open site in milder locations, but shelter from the coldest wind will be valuable further north or east. I would expect them to grow happily in shade, but to flower more profusely in a warm sunny site.

Cornus elliptica 'Full Moon'
Cornus angustata Full Moon rootball from Junker's Nursery
This photo, taken in early November, shows a specimen of Cornus elliptica 'Full Moon' that has just been lifted from the open ground. The rootball has been wrapped in hessian to protect it. This will be planted exactly as it is, leaving the hessian in place. The hessian is untreated so will break down in the soil very quickly. 

Cornus capitata
Cornus capitata
is a classic species from the Himalayas and China, being until comparatively recently the only evergreen bracting Cornus commonly found in cultivation. As is typical in this group the bracts are at their best in July, and are followed by large, juicy, strawberry-like fruit to round-off the display in the autumn. Cornus capitata has the potential to form a broad tree, with a rounded head. Traditionally it has been considered to need a sheltered site, but climate change seems to be making it more accessible to a wider range of locations.

Cornus capitata 'Kilmacurragh Rose'
This fabulous Irish selection from Wicklow resembles the species in most characteristics. However it is distinguished by the bracts, which whilst opening to the usual cream, then mature to a wonderful shade of rosy pink.

Cornus elliptica 'First Choice'
We are grateful to Mark Weathington at JCRA for sharing this one with us. This one has a paler bronze flush to the thickly textured, glossy leaves than most members of the Summer Series described below. This is most pronounced on the young growth. The leaves also have a noticeably more glabrous underside, making them appear silvery, which gives a rather lovely contrast with the glossy uppers as the move in the wind. The creamy bracts in July are as you would expect for the group. 'First Choice' is very slow growing in our conditions, making what I would describe as a shrub rather than a tree.

Cornus angustata Full Moon flower bract from Junker's Nursery Cornus elliptica 'Full Moon'
Simplest described as an evergreen equivalent of C. kousa with bright green, thickly textured leave that are held all through the winter. The bracts mature a little later though, so it is florally not at its peak until at least July. The creamy white bracts are huge, whilst the fruit which follow are massive by comparison to others in the group, often equalling or even exceeding the size of a golf ball. Since they are produced later in the season, they ripen to red later, so most effectively in a warm sunny site. Sturdy upright habit. 

We first acquired this one under the name Cornus angustata 'Full Moon', with C. angustata sometimes being classified as a subspecies of Cornus kousa. However, angustata is no longer considered to be a valid name, and it is currently attributed to Cornus elliptica.
Cornus angustata Full Moon fruit from Junker's Nursery

Cornus hongkongensis
The limited information available about this one is conflicting. We obtained it originally as Cornus emeiensis. The RHS attributes C. emeiensis to C. capitata. Perhaps that is the case, but visually it is poles apart. Flora of China don't recognise C. emeiensis as a valid species, so it seems most likely that it should be classified under Cornus hongkongensis. The foliage of our C. hongkongensis is a warm copper colour, richest in the young growth, but largely maintained through the year.  It has a wonderful dense, cascading habit, thus naturally making a large shrub rather than attaining the proportions of a tree. The "flowers" share the typical 4-bracted structure of the group, though they tend to remain smaller and more star-like than many, further enhancing the grace of the plant. The original plant of this species that I came across was in a large pot and although I would be more inclined to plant it in the garden in the normal way, it did make a very lovely specimen in a large container. 
See it in our Woodland Walk.

Cornus Summer Series

This group appears to be derived from a collection of seed made in China and which may also be derivatives of Cornus hongkongensis. They are all evergreen, with exceptionally glossy leaves. The cultivars in this group vary in vigour and habit, as well as the exact colour of their leaves, since several of them have foliage with gorgeous bronzey colours. The typical four creamy white bracts are freely produced in summer. As a group they are comparatively new to our collection, but I'm really excited by them. My descriptions will become more detailed as I observe them as they grow. Photos will follow.

The first of these should be available from autumn 2022.

Cornus 'Summer Flair'
My first impression of 'Summer Flair' is that it is one of the more vigorous selections in this group. The leaves are richly flushed with bronze when young, maturing to a bright, glossy green. It looks to be a beautiful plant.

Cornus 'Summer Glossy'
This one has the darkest, most bronzey foliage of the four. The leaves are also narrower. It seems much slower growing than 'Summer Flair' and 'Summer Sky Tree', but it looks as though it is going to make a very beautiful shrubby small tree of compact habit.

Cornus 'Summer Passion'
Also slower growing, the foliage of 'Summer Passion' is slightly paler than that of 'Summer Glossy'. At this early stage, it is looking to be a little laxer in habit than 'Summer Glossy' but it will be interesting to see how they compare as they mature. This one will not be available as soon as autumn 2022.  

Cornus 'Summer Sky Tree'
Based on the name, I am assuming that this one will be the tallest and most upright, with the potential to make a tree of good height. Certainly early signs are that it has good vigour. Its foliage is the greenest in the group, still sumptuously glossy, but with only a hint of the bronzey young growth.

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