CORNUS continued
last updated 09/01/2018

Cornus kousa and its cultivars

This species is the hardiest in this group and in many ways the most suited to the rather damp British climate. They tend also to be more shade tolerant and will thrive in a woodland situation. However, they can also be supremely effective as individual specimens.

They generally form a small tree, eventually up to around 5m. There are a great many cultivars available, giving scope for a wider range of habits. Some remain narrow and upright in habit, whilst others develop spreading branches which are smothered with flowers in June from almost the first year. Most years will see them flower later than the nuttalliis or floridas, so extending the season.

The bracts are usually cream or white, although there are pinks. Their shape varies from star-like where the bracts are narrower and more pointed, to quite rounded and almost over-lapping. Typically they unfurl as greeny star-shaped bracts initially, then open out and enlarge as they develop. Many continue to mature to a rich pink.

The rich bronze and crimson autumn colours are lovely but generally not quite as vivid as found with the nuttalliis. Variegated forms are available but they can be more difficult to grow, preferring a slightly more protected environment. Additionally, some forms freely produce very attractive large strawberry-like fruits. These are edible though they're not particularly to my taste. Apparently they make excellent jam or even wine.

We now have a superb collection of these spectacular trees; many recent varieties have come from the United States. Don't let the extensive range bewilder and befuddle you - feel free to email me for advice. It is important to opt for a grafted, named cultivar because they have all been selected as something rather special, with the important benefit of flowering from a younger age. The first decision is likely to be bract colour, but then consider the shape and habit of the tree that would suit the position.

Please note that they are listed alphabetically by cultivar name (ie with no regard as to whether they are cultivars of Cornus kousa var. chinensis or not.) With differing opinions as to where some should be classified, I hope this makes it easier to find things.

See also the hybrids Cornus 'Norman Hadden', 'Cornus Kenwyn Clapp' and the so-called Rutgers hybrids.

CORNUS kousa 'Akebana'
A pink bracted selection originating in Japan. As a very minor point of interest, this one seems to naturally form a more symmetrical plant than the other pinks.

CORNUS kousa 'All Summer'
This is a particularly splendid form with a tidy and upright habit, with rich green foliage. Long lasting bracts as the name implies!
See it in our Quarry Garden and Woodland Walk.

CORNUS kousa 'Akatsuki'
This is a variegated sport from 'Satomi' which originated in Japan. The leaves are green with broad, irregular white margins. The deep pink bracts contrast well with the variegated foliage. Unfortunately, it is a comparatively weak plant which needs close to ideal conditions in order to thrive. 

CORNUS kousa 'Autumn Rose'
This is a delightful American selection, whose bracts open light green before maturing to soft white. However, it is the foliage which makes this one unique - the yellow to lime green spring growth gives way to green wavy leaves in summer which develop myriad shades of pink to red autumn colours. It seems to lack the vigour of most kousa cultivars, which makes it suitable for small gardens although it does need a kinder site.
See it in the gardens here.

CORNUS kousa 'Big Apple'
Large spreading tree with heavy textured dark green leaves and extremely large fruit.

CORNUS kousa 'Blue Shadow'
Another fantastic American selection which seems to be extremely robust. The leaves are larger and more substantial than most, being a rich bluish green in colour. Reddish autumn colour. Long-lasting white bracts and fruit. Particularly heat tolerant.

CORNUS kousa var. chinensis 'Bodnant' 
The young stems are distinctly purple and the large creamy white bracts are freely produced. It also sets fruit freely. This one seems reluctant to make a symmetrical tree shape, so may be best grown in a more informal manner, effectively as a large shrub

CORNUS kousa 'Bump'
A dwarf form of bushy habit. More shrubby in habit, this won't naturally form a tree. Excellent exfoliating bark is an unexpected bonus.

CORNUS kousa 'Capuccino'
The larger the collection one has, the harder it is to find something "different" and I am determined that we will not add to it just for the sake of collecting another name! Nor am I interested in growing things that may be "different" but for all the wrong reasons, making them of little ornamental merit. Of course sometimes it is necessary to grow something for a while to be able to see for yourself whether it is worthy of a place. Therefore I am particularly thrilled with this more recent selection and addition to our collection, which is without a doubt both "different" and worthy of a place in any garden. It is distinguished by rather lovely foliage, warmly flushed with coppery bronze tones all season. The prolific bracts are the typical shape, whilst the creamy colouring shows up beautifully against the darker foliage. This one also readily develops an elegant structure, making it a brilliant all-rounder.

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