Garden Retail Awards 2009: Most Successful New Plant

WINNER: John Woods Nurseries - Cornus Venus

Cornus Venus is a striking new hybrid of C. nuttallii and C. kousa var. chinensis. Venus has very long, creamy-white bracts with a diameter of up to 15cm covering the plant in mid- to late May once established.

In autumn, the large, glossy green leaves take on shades of yellow, orange and violet. The plants comes in a pot size of 7.5 litres and wholesales at £23 and retails at £55. John Woods is the sole UK grower and distributor of Cornus Venus.

Venus was hybridised in the US by Dr E Orton as part of the Rutgers' Cook College and New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station breeding programme. The original seedling is now 20 years old, although the initial hybridisation of C. kousa x C.nuttallii was initiated in May 1973. These two species, native to areas of the Pacific Northwest and western US, were chosen for their qualities of winter hardiness, bract size, drought tolerance and high resistance to powdery mildew and dogwood anthracnose.

Venus is a vigorous grower and forms a densely branched small tree or large shrub. Once started the display of bracts will last for about three weeks. Even a relatively young plant sets a greater amount of bud than is usual for flowering dogwood varieties. The leaves are rich green and glossy and take on stunning autumn tints. An established plant will also produce large, strawberry-like fruits in autumn.

Venus is easy to grow and performs best in a slightly acidic drained soil in a sunny position. No pruning is required but the plant can be cut back after flowering. The plant reaches 4m x 2m in 10 years.

The plant provides structure and a focal point in the garden. It offers an alternative to a tree for a small garden. It has extended-season interest with flowers, fruit and autumn colour. Cut branches last well in a vase for flower arrangers.

Venus has a high retail value and can be recommended for those with small gardens who want long-season interest. The plant is a good choice as a gift buy and for the serious plant collector.

A PR campaign in spring 2009 raised consumer awareness, promoted stockists and drove sales. John Woods launched the plant at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show within Capel Manor College's garden.



The HTA National Plant Show 2010 The HTA National Plant Show 2010 takes place on 29-30 June at Stoneleigh Park. It is a strategic "plant-only" two-day show that will showcase the best of British suppliers.

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