Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Cornelian cherry ‘among the first flowers of spring’

Spring is a delightful time of year to be a gardener. Everyone loves to see green areas come back to life after the downtime of the winter season, but it can be particularly satisfying for those whose hobby or profession is to maintain plant life.

Indeed, the first flowers of the season should be starting to emerge around about now – and the Cornelian cherry is likely to be among these.

It can also be known as the European cornel or Dogwood – but its Latin binominal name is the Cornus mas. It is a species of flowering plant in the Cornaceae family, which is native to southern Europe, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Iran and some of the south-western countries in Asia.

As a shrub or small tree, it can grow to anywhere between five and 12 m tall, producing green twigs and dark brown branches. The leaves are typically between four and ten cm long, with a spherical egg-like shape.

Its fruit is a kind of berry that bears a strong resemblance to a coffee bean, although these do not usually ripen until much later in the year – often mid to late summer.

Professional garden and landscape designer Dan Pearson said that his own cornus mas are still small at this stage, but they are starting to show some promise.

In an article for UK national newspaper the Guardian, he noted that plants always start to show signs of life in spring – even after the coldest and bleakest of winters. He said that his cornus mas looked expectant as far back as Christmas, when their buds were still tight, with wide and sculpted hats.

They had started to show some color against the snow, according to the expert, who added that they have gone on to bloom with the snowdrops. He described the flowers as tiny, being a small mass of acid-yellow stamens. However, when they cluster en masse, they bring the bush to life with plenty of vigor.

"When the January snow slowly eased its grip, slumping off the cold frame, pulling away from the molehills and the banks, an altered landscape was there to greet us," Mr Pearson remarked of the beginnings of the spring season.

"The changes were tiny – angelica skeletons pushed to an angle and long grass flattened – but there were signs of activity, too. I had looked for the snowdrops beforehand and found nothing, but here they were, the first flowers tilting free of their foliage," he continued.