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Cornus mas

Cornus mas



About this cultivar:

Cornus mas is a deciduous shrub with oval leaves turning purple in autumn; small clusters of tiny, bright yellow flowers open in late winter, to be followed by glossy red, cherry-like edible fruits. So there is year round interest which makes it a great addition to any garden.

The shrub is not native to the British Isles. William Turner had only heard of the plant in 1548, but by 1551 he had heard of one at Hampton Court Palace. John Gerard said in his 1597 ‘Herball’ it was to be found in the gardens "of such as love rare and dainty plants" – a garden favourite for over 400 years!

The fruit has an acidic flavour which is best described as a mixture of cranberry and sour cherry; can be used for making jam, dried fruits, or flavouring vodka!

The epithet mas means ‘male’ was used so to distinguish it from the true dogberry, the ‘female’ sanguinea.. Commons names include Cornelian cherry, European cornel or cherry dogwood

Interestingly the wood of Cornus mas is extremely dense and tough. Unlike the wood of most other woody plant species it sinks in water! It was so tough the Greek name for it was used as a synonym for ‘spear’ in poetry during the fourth and third centuries BC.

I think it works quite well as a small bush, or even a hedge, but have no photos of such!

    • Position: Full sun, partial shade
    • Soil: Almost any soil, grows well in Ballyrobert
    • Flowers: May, June
    • Other features: Grows well in Ballyrobert
    • Hardiness: H6 - Hardy in all of UK and northern Europe (-20 to -15°C), Fully hardy - grows well in Ballyrobert!
    • Habit: Suckering
    • Foliage: Deciduous
    • Height: 250 - 400 cm (9 - 14 ft)
    • Spread: 250 - 400 cm (9 - 14 ft)
    • Time to full growth: 5 to 10 years
    • Plant type: Shrub
    • Colour: Red, yellow, green
    • Goes well with: Grasses such as Miscanthus and Calamagrostis. But anything really. Other Cornus also go well with this one.

      About this genus:

      Cornus is a genus of about 30–60 species of woody plants in the dogwood family (Cornaceae). The species vary enormously! Most are deciduous trees or shrubs, but a few species are nearly herbaceous perennial subshrubs, and a few of the woody species are evergreen. The various species of dogwood are native throughout much of the temperate North.

      Cornus are well known to gardeners. The poet Virgil makes reference to a haunted copse of cornel in Book III of the Aeneid. They were also known to Geoffrey Chaucer, who calls them "whippletree" in The Canterbury Tales. The name "dog-tree" entered the English vocabulary before 1548, becoming "dogwood" by 1614. One theory is that "dogwood" was derived from the Old English dagwood, from the use of the slender stems of its very hard wood for making "dags" (daggers, skewers, and arrows). More recently in the Victorian Era, flowers or sprigs of dogwood were presented to unmarried women by male suitors to signify affection! 

      Apart from daggers and dating it appears Dogwood has been used throughout time and throughout the world for almost anything - from toothbrushes to tennis rackets, from fermented fruit to curing colds. Perhaps the stems could  be used instead of fiber optic broadband? We'll stick to using it in our garden for now.

      Cornus are almost ubiquitous in gardens, and not just here; horticulturist Donald Wyman stated, "There is a dogwood for almost every part of the U.S. except the hottest and driest areas". But with good reason - they grow almost anywhere,are beautiful in every season, and cultivars are available in almost every in height, colour and shape, 

      In our garden at Ballyrobert we are probably guilty of over-using Cornus (if that  is possible). It is a good idea to think about where your light shines in the colder months so you can really appreciate their colourful stems. Most books will tell you to plant them with grasses such as Miscanthus and Calamagrostis - and we do that . But we also plant them beside Geranium, other Cornus and Euonymus. We had even stuck a few Galanthus (snowdrops) beneath the 'flame' cultivars. I just had an idea to put bright red/orange/yellow bulbs at the bottom of them too - watch this space!

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