Cornus mas or European Cornel is native to Southern Europe and southwest Asia also north America where it is known as the Cornelian Cherry. It is a large shrub or small much branched tree to about 5-12 metres and several metres in diameter. It was named Cornus mas to distinguish it from the true Dogberry, the Female Cornel, Cornus sanguineum. Do not quite get that logic as they are both visually distinctive, but there again it is probably more to do with terminology. The plant was first grown in England in 1548 with one at Hampton Court in 1551. It was said to be found in gardens of those who loved rare and dainty plants.

 Probably best known for its yellow flowers produced enmass giving a distinctive yellow haze in February before the leaves appear. The yellow petals, of which there are 4, are dullish in colour and produced in clusters at the end of short green twigs. The flowers may be followed by bright ruby red berries similar to coffee beans but do not ripen until they fall to the ground. The berries when ripe are edible and can be used for jam or sauce. It is said to resemble the Cranberry in flavour. Further reading regards use can be found on Wikipedia.

It is likely to be readily available from nurseries but if planted in the garden it is best given plenty of space to appreciate the full magnificence of its splendour. To provide ongoing colour and maximise use of space under planting with woodlanders is advisable.

James McCombe