April 15, 2011

No More Forsythia Balls! Choose Cornus mas Instead.

Toronto gardeners have an alternative: Cornelian Cherry Dogwood (Cornus mas)

In a "parkette" nearby which doubles as a dog run (watch out while treading!),  the City of Toronto has planted some more "unusual" shrubs and perennials. I use this adjective because I constantly see the "classic" run of the mill selection like yews, euonymus, and forsythia in private foundation plantings instead of public spaces. You know there's a disconnect when the city's park planners are more progressive than many landscape contractors.

spring yellow cornellian cherry cornus mas blooms by garden muses: a toronto gardening blog
Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) in bloom

Anyway, off my soap box, here's a shot of some Cornelian cherry or Cornus mas blooming right now in downtown Toronto. The bright yellow flowers cluster along tan branches and are welcome at this time of the year.

yellow spring cornellian cherry flower buds by garden muses: a Toronto gardening blog
A closer image of Cornus mas flower buds yet to open

A closer look at some buds which will open within a few days. One can expect red oval fruits the size of...cherries...by late July and August. The shrub doesn't have a noteworthy form or structure but the fall colour is a nice purple/red/violet mix so we have at least 3 seasons worth of interest. Cornus mas is also very hardy here in zone 5/6 so one doesn't have to baby it through the winter. And you get rewarded with a bright shot of colour in these still early days of spring. Can't you tell I love this plant?

spring cornellian cherry shrubs by garden muses: a Toronto gardening blog
Three Cornus mas shrubs in full  sun

Here's a grove of several Cornelian cherries facing south and west and getting full sun (8 hours plus.) These plants are about 15' tall by 10' wide or so each and should be given the proper spacing. They shouldn't be pruned/tortured into cubes, balls, or other odd shapes, which leads me to...forsythia!

We will be seeing forsythia blooming in about another month and, to be sure, the shrub will be ablaze with yellow...for about two weeks. Afterwards, it will revert to a green blob or a huge tangled mess. No appreciable fall colour, no wildlife interest, prone to galls and anthracnose, the choice is obvious: choose Cornus mas instead!



  1. Good advice. I hear that the variegated and gold leaved forms are smaller and more compact.

  2. Hi Barry,

    thanks for commenting. Cultivars like "Fiesta" and "Golden Times" would be more suitable but many folks are very attached/sentimental about the Forsythia x intermedia that's hiding their front porch/windows!

  3. Anonymous9.7.13

    Hello. Can you tell me where in Toronto I can find this tree/bush?



    1. Hi Sheyda,

      do you want to buy it or just see them in a garden?

      Nicer garden centres like Sheridan and Plant World will likely have them for sale.

      The ones in this blog post are found in a park near Gloucester and Yonge Sts.

    2. Thanks for your quick reply. I want to pick/buy the fruits. I live at Church and Wellesley so I think I'll check out the ones near Gloucester and Yonge. Are they in the linear park to the east of Yonge?

    3. Yes, the shrubs are in that parkette between Gloucester and Charles. I don't know if there are any fruits left but good luck!