Holding forth

The daffodils are up and blooming; that’s probably not new news to those of you who live in more densely populated areas. Neither is the fact that the hellebores are also holding forth, likewise cyclamen and the tiny yellow flowers of Cornus officianalis. Yes, tiny; yes. yellow. Now that I’ve said that perhaps I should explain. 

There are many different kinds of dogwood in addition to the familiar (and somewhat threatened) dogwood of the eastern forest understory(Cornus florida)  and an always welcome sight later in the spring.  But much earlier than that, beating even Forsythia, are the  (difficult to propagate) Cornus officianalis or Japanese Cornelian cherry which is generally two weeks earlier than it’s more familiar (but still pretty well unknown) Cornus mas or Cornelian cherry. 

Both plants are large shrubs/small trees, produce amazing (and edible – but not particularly wonderfully tasty) oblong brilliant red fruits in late summer and follow with nice, burgundy fall leaf color. In addition, they develop a beautiful flaking and peeling bark not unlike a blend of eucalyptus and river birch. 

Here at the Garden, we have a seedling of C. officianalis which began blooming last year at age two and now is 4′ tall and blooming as I write. Its dark mahogany-colored new stems are an additional interest.  

The two C. mas plants in the garden are yet to open bud. But both have added value that make the wait worth it.  One is ‘Aurea’, featuring bright yellow/chartreuse foliage upon emerging – it literally lights up its area which does not, this early in the season, get much sun until later in the day. The other is ‘Variegata’ and makes a magnificent display of its white variegated foliage (there’s also a yellow variegated version) later after leaf-out. The other types of dogwood will be subjects for later entries.