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A tree for early summer: Cornus kousa

19th Jun 2019

With their elegantly simply blooms comprised of four large bracts around a central bobble (where the true flowers live), the kousa dogwoods (Cornus kousa) are some of the best small trees for early summer interest.

Also commonly known as either Chinese or Japanese dogwoods, there are a number of gorgeous varieties available, with long-lasting flowers in white to pink/red, followed by strawberry-like fruits and sumptuous autumn foliage.

Reaching up to 4-6 metres, they tend to have a vase-shaped growth habit and are often multi-stemmed, lending them to use as large shrubs. Young plants often don't suggest how beautiful they become later on. Don't be put off! When mature, branching is more horizontal, creating a canopy that can offer a nice spot of shade in high summer. Although the main seasons of interest are late spring to autumn, winter reveals the complex, forked branching pattern.

Where to grow

Hailing from woodland environments in Asia, kousa dogwoods prefer a neutral to acid soil which is moist but well-drained and nicely stocked with organic matter. They will also cope perfectly well with more alkaline or sandy soils if you mulch well with a layer of rich compost. C. kousa var. chinensis is really easy to grow, even on heavy clay. A bit of shelter is helpful.

Trees for summer

Spring is the key season for flowering garden trees; summer blossom is a more unusual feature. Along with the kousa dogwoods, elder and its purple-leaved varieties are at their blooming peak around mid-June. Some of the magnolias give a second showing a little later, and the evergreen magnolia comes into flower once summer really gets going, as does Catalpa.

For most trees, early summer is chiefly about a flush of new growth, a time for them to stretch out their limbs before switching their attention to berries, fruits, nuts and seeds. At this time of year, just enjoy watching them flourish!

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