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Cornus mas - Cornelian cherry

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Cornelian cherry is a large shrub or multi-stemmed tree native to central and southern Europe, extending into Asia Minor and the Caucasus. It is an ancient species, grown by the Romans for decoration and use. The yellow flowers bloom before leaf flush in early spring and are important to bees; the red berries ripen in autumn and are used in healthy and delicious preserves; while the large seeds are a source of high quality oil. The wood, hard and so dense that it doesn’t float in water, has been used for making tools.

For some reason Cornelian cherry has seldom been even tried in Finland, despite having been grown in neighbouring countries for centuries. At Mustila there is only a single old shrub at the north edge of Alppiruusulaakso (Rhododendron Valley). However, both this individual and several young plantings have thrived, though so far have remained small. They are at their most beautiful when they flower in early spring, usually at the beginning of May.

Today, important breeding programmes are being carried out in Austria, Latvia and Poland, for example, the latter having provided Mustila with trial material. It seems possible that this species might be a useful plant for many purposes at least in southernmost parts of the country, when the most suitable breeding material and varieties have first been identified


Cornus alternifolia - pagoda dogwood



The pagoda dogwood grows naturally throughout a large area of eastern North America. It is a small attractive shrub-like tree, but seldom planted in Finland. It is at its best when it has achieved its full size, the branches spreading in ascending layers and the beautiful crown at its full extent.

Small clusters of white flowers appear in early summer with the shrub in leaf. In autumn it has blue-black berries on fire-red stalks. The patterned leaves turn sparkling shades of violet, orange and yellow. In winter the attractive pattern of red-brown branches comes into its own.

Pagoda dogwood is a plant for shady boggy spots at the edge of forest or near water, not suitable for poor soil or dry spots. Given reasonable conditions it seems healthy, adaptable and sturdy. With regard to its hardiness and other characteristics, it is one of the best of the new species collected on Mustila expeditions to America.


Cornus alba subsp. stolonifera - American dogwood


American, or red osier dogwood is sometimes considered to be a subspecies, but sometimes as a species in its own right. It is a little lower and less stiffly growing than Tatarian dogwood (C. alba subsp. alba) and spreads faster to form typical dogwood thickets.

American dogwood produces white flowers in June, with decorative pale blue or white berries in autumn. New shoots are green in spring but later change to red; older shoots turn pale brown and the bark splits. Removal of old growth helps to keep the shrub colourful.

All the shrubby dogwoods have rich foliage and a dense habit, while their stems add colour to the winter scene. In the garden they look best against a light or dark background, against a wall or large rock, for example. Many of the dogwood varieties are in fact grown specifically for their colourful stems. The variety ‘Flaviramea’, so common in Finnish gardens, has yellow stems.

The Native North Americans used American dogwood in their medication, dyes were made from the bark, and they wove baskets from the stems.

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