Listen to this podcast on how to grow Cornelian Cherry Trees for food and beauty
The Cornelian cherry or Cornus mas is actually in the dogwood family. It flowers very early, with brilliant yellow blooms this time of year. It’s a great early season pollen source for bees. Soon after, the red fruits are produced. Cornelian cherry has been a food source in Ancient Greece and Eastern Europe for thousands of years. The tart flavored berries are used in cooking and making juice. Even if you’re not interested in the fruit, it’s a great wildlife plant for birds and bees. The 15 to 20 foot tall tree has few insect and disease problems, is hardy to zone 4, low maintenance and perfect in a small space.
One of the biggest problems I have with our cherries is birds. One solution is growing bush cherries that produce edible fruits later in summer. The birds don’t seem to notice the fruits that time of year. There are a number of bush cherry choices. Nanking cherry grows 6- to 8-feet tall producing white or red tart cherry fruits depending on the variety. Hansens bush cherry grows a little shorter producing tasty tart cherries in July on plants adapted to poor soil conditions. ‘Joel’, ‘Jan’ and ‘Carmine’ bush cherries hale from New Hampshire and Canada and have almond-like flowers in spring, beautiful cherries in summer and attractive foliage in fall. All of these bush cherries are hardy in Vermont, and just need full sun and well drained soil to grow. They have few insects and diseases and birds look the other way when they’re ripe. It’s best to get at least 2 different varieties for pollination.