Butterflies in May

 


A genus worthy of consideration for almost any garden is the Cornus family particularly the more hardy cornus kousa cultivars. These are mainly slow growing small trees or in some cases large shrubs. As gardens get smaller with ever increasing pressure for housing our gardens are becoming more an external room, the outdoor adjunct of our living areas and so we demand from our plants an ever increasing range of interests. Few shrubs have such a wow factor as the Cornus Kousa hybrids , in full flower the delicate cream to pink bracts can cover the whole plant making it look as though a thousand butterflies have alighted on a single plant. The bracts can last as long as two months usually starting from lime white or cream and eventually fading to a soft battered pink. The fruits form at the centre of the bracts and turn from apple green through soft pink to finally in September or October, red and a successfully fruiting specimen will look as though covered in strawberries. The autumn leaf colour on a slightly acid soil can be spectacular from purple reds through to sulphur yellows. 

 

The soils for these plants should be neutral to acid although they will grow on alkaline soils but the autumn colour will be poorer.  Many of the smaller cultivars make excellent pot specimens and as the trunk ages and is exposed to more light a mottled cream and grey bark develops which can be very beautiful. The typical shape of a mature specimen is of a layered canopy similar to the better known viburnum placatum group but somewhat more dense and Japanese in appearance.

 

Some of the better known cultivars and varieties which do very well in this area are MILKY WAY a prolific flowering form which readily forms good fruit although it must be mentioned that the birds are very fond of the fruit and it is often stripped long before it reaches full maturity. GALAXY strictly speaking this is a nuttalii cross kousa hybrid which displays the best of both plants in that it is both prolific in size and flowering.

One of the strongest pink forms often approaching red is HEARTHROB which also displays strong Autumn foliage colour. Two interesting smaller forms  are 'Peve Satomi Compact'which as it's name implies is a smaller growing pink form and NICOLE which is a smaller growing green or white form.

 

If the plants are grown in pots they do best in a well drained, but moisture retentive compost which will allow them to flower well and produce good autumn colour.

Cornus kousa 'Milky Way'Cornus kousa 'Peve Satomi Compact'Cornus 'Porlock' AGMCornus kousa 'Angyo Issai'Cornus kousa 'Gold Star'Cornus kousa 'Summer Stars'
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