March 25, 2014

Kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa var. chinensis): garden muses plant profile

Chinese dogwood: why you need to plant it


Looking for a medium sized deciduous tree that offers interest throughout the seasons? Look no further than Kousa (aka Chinese) dogwood! Hardy in zones 5-8, Cornus kousa var. chinensis is not native to North America (originally from China, Japan and Korea) but offers the following ornamental characteristics:

a) White/cream coloured bracts that can cover the tree. It's a wonderful sight to see a Kousa dogwood laden with these white bracts in May-June. Here's my tree covered with bracts in spring:

Cornus kousa Chinese dogwood bract by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Cornus kousa (Chinese dogwood) bract 



Cornus kousa Chinese dogwood blooms by garden muses- a Toronto gardening blog
Cornus kousa (Chinese dogwood) blooms 

Cornus kousa var Chinensis Chinese dogwood bracts by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Cornus kousa var chinensis (Chinese dogwood) bracts 

Chinese dogwood Cornus kousa var Chinensis  bracts by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Chinese dogwood (Cornus kousa var chinensis)  bracts 

Chinese dogwood Cornus kousa var Chinensis bracts by garden muses-a Toronto gardening blog
Chinese dogwood (Cornus kousa var chinensis) bracts 


Chinese dogwood Cornus kousa var Chinensis berries by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Chinese dogwood (Cornus kousa var chinensis) berries 

Flowers often produce these warty and somewhat edible fruits (berries) by autumn. I profiled these soft fruits that have a mealy consistency in a post titled "Maybe you do need a scoop of vanilla ice cream... Fresh Toronto Cornus kousa fruits in the raw!" Likely the squirrels and birds will eat them before you can harvest them.

I tried eating one and, while edible, wasn't an amazing gourmet experience!



Cornus kousa var chinensis Chinese dogwood autumn foliage by garden muses-not another Toronto gardening blog
Cornus kousa var chinensis 
(Chinese dogwood) autumn foliage 

Cornus kousa's fall foliage is very ornamental as shown above. Colours range from plums, wines, russets, oranges and golds on the same tree.

Common cultivars we see in Toronto include "Satomi" with pink bracts and "Wolf Eyes" which has wavy variegated leaves. They can be planted as small-medium sized trees, shrubs and standards and can fit into most landscape garden styles.

Cornus kousa prefers full sun (6 hours of direct sun) with ample watering in the first several years after transplanting. My tree takes care of itself more or less, no fertilizing required and is pest free. Just leave it alone to achieve its natural vase shape and don't prune them into meatballs!