Cornus kousa var. chinensis
Cornus kousa var. chinensis has pink through to white bracts that make this lovely small tree something truly special. Rosemoor is home to one of the National Collection of Cornus (dogwoods), and there are a number of excellent specimens throughout the estate, with several mature specimens in Lady Anne's Garden and a number of younger plants growing on in the Formal Garden.
- Common name
- Chinese dogwood
- Height & spread
- Up to 7m (22ft) high and 5m (15ft) wide
- Deciduous tree
- Fertile, humus-rich, acid soil
- Full sun or partial shade
- Hardy throughout the British Isles
The dogwoods, Cornus, comprise a genus of around 65 species of mostly deciduous shrubs and small trees from northern temperate grasslands, woodlands and swamps.
Cornus are grown for a wide range of ornamental effects. Dogwoods such as Cornus alba and C. stolonifera are prized for their brilliant autumn foliage, handsome fruits and outstanding winter beauty provided by colourful stems which range in colour from yellow, crimson and almost black-purple.
The flowering dogwoods such as C. florida, C. kousa and C. nuttallii are also grown for their autumn colour but it is their large white or pink bracts produced in early summer for which the group is most celebrated.
The genus Cornus is named from the Latin name for the cornelian cherry. Cornus mas is grown for its colourful yellow flowers produced in spring, followed by bright red, fleshy, edible fruit in late summer. It also produces a wonderful autumn display with the dark green leaves turning reddish purple.
Cornus kousa var. chinensis
Cornus kousa is a broadly conical, deciduous tree with flaking bark and ovate, wavy-margined, dark green leaves to 8cm (3in) long that turn deep crimson-purple in autumn. In early summer, green flowers are produced in flowerheads, to 1cm (0.5in) across, and are followed by strawberry-like fleshy red fruits.
Cornus kousa var. chinensis is a large, free-flowering deciduous shrub or small tree to 8m, with ovate leaves turning red and orange in autumn. It bears flowerheads with four ovate cream bracts 4-6cm long and fruit deep pink, and strawberry-like. It differs from the species in that is has smooth margined leaves and large, tapered bracts to 5cm (2in) long which open creamy white and then turn white, and eventually red-pink.
Cornus kousa var. chinensis is best grown as a specimen tree in a fertile, humus-rich, neutral to acid soil in full sun or partial shade. It is not recommended for poor, shallow, chalk soils.
Plants are slow-growing when young, but they speed up after a few years. Cornus kousa is best left to develop with a central-leader or as a branched-head standard with minimal intervention. Gradually clear a short trunk when young by pruning in the autumn or spring and then keep pruning to an absolute minimum. Dead wood should be removed after flowering but Cornus kousa does not tolerate hard pruning.
Cornus are rarely affected by pests and diseases, though some may suffer from Cornus anthracnose. This fungal infection is most prevalent in cool, damp weather, with infections showing as spots on the leaves in late spring. Affected branches should be pruned out and burnt.
They may also succumb to honey fungus.
- Propagate the species by seed. These are cold stratified when ripe and sown the following spring.
- Take green wood cuttings of cultivars in the summer.
The RHS Woody Plant Committee awarded Cornus kousa var. chinensis an Award of Garden Merit with the description:
'Large, free-flowering deciduous shrub with ovate leaves turning red and orange in autumn. Flower-heads with four ovate cream bracts 4-6cm long. Fruit deep pink, strawberry like.'