Plant of the month for June: an early-flowering cornus

Cornus kousa var. chinensis ‘China Girl’ is a great tree for a smaller garden, offering plenty of interest throughout the year

CornusThis is a lovely small tree and is an improved early flowering form of Cornus kousa var. chinensis. As its name implies, it is a native of China and was introduced in 1910; we have two specimens in the ‘China and Himalayas’ section of the Bicentenary Arboretum. These form part of our national collection of Cornus. Here they are grown with other Chinese natives such as Corylopsis, Ginkgo biloba, Spiraea and Fagus orientalis.

Cornus kousa var. chinensis ‘China Girl’ has something to commend it throughout the year. In June, the large, creamy-white flower bracts put on a show; these are followed by strawberry-like fruits, and in autumn the leaves turn shades of red/orange. These attributes make it a very good specimen tree for a small garden.

Specimens at Rosemoor can also be found in the woodland walk where they form part of the mix of woodland trees and shrubs including rhododendrons, Pieris, Prunus, acers, Stachyurus and Stewartia. Here they enjoy the partially shaded humus-rich acid soil we can offer.

The flowering of this tree will largely depend upon the weather of the previous summer. Like most of us, they perform best when warm and sunny! Although it is slow growing, it will flower freely even when young and so is good value from the start.

The natural habitat of this tree is in the understory of moist, fertile forests and so it combines best with woodland plants that like similar conditions. A variety of herbaceous perennials fit the bill, for example at Rosemoor we grow Trillium grandiflorum AGM, hostas, Euphorbia griffithii 'Fireglow', a variety of ferns, hellebores and geraniums (such as Geranium wlassovianum).
 

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