Berry attractive: Cornus amomum

It may be because I have beds to fill and am not pushed for space in the garden at the moment but I am becoming fond of cornus (and viburnums) and have been planting a few. I have to say that the ‘flowering’ kinds with colourful bracts, such as C. kousa, have failed, probably because of the serious issues with the soil here until I tame it. I have a Cornus capitata that is struggling to hold its own but the ‘stem’ species, with small, cream flowers and no colourful bracts, are a doddle to please.

So it was with some confidence that I planted Cornus amomum, as the cultivar ‘Blue Cloud’. Cornus amomum is a perfectly hardy shrub from eastern North America and was introduced, to the UK, in 1683. But it has never really captured the imagination and it was only when I saw a plant of it at Dublin ‘Botanics’ that I thought how nice it was. Bean (Trees and shrubs Hardy in the British Isles) was hardly excited about it, writing ‘A shrub thriving well in our climate, but of no especial value.’ Faint praise indeed.

However, the young shoots are purple in winter, the autumn colour is rich red and purple and the flowers are pretty, if not that special – think of Cornus alba flowers. But the berries, which my plant has produced for the first time, now it is two years old, are pretty darned good! They are white as they ripen and then turn pale blue. That is an unusual colour for berries and they seem to be produced reliably, unlike those of Viburnum davidii which is so often a let down. They are going to look really special when the leaves turn and even better when the leaves drop off. I can’t imagine the birds will be keen on these so the show should last well into winter.

In theory, this will grow in sun or part shade though I think full sun will encourage more dense growth which might be important because it can potentially grow to 3m high and wide. If that is the case I have put it in wrong spot! But it can be hard pruned (stooled) if necessary, though you won’t get berries then, and I may have to shape it and remove lower branches as it grows. We will see. It is supposed to like acid or neutral soil. In two years my plant is about 1.2m high and wide, from a small, bare-root ‘twig’. I think I am going to enjoy this plant in winter as well as autumn and can see me cutting berried branches for winter decoration – as long as the berries last.

Update – well I was not ridiculous to be worried about the first frost of the season – we had it last night. It was just a grass frost and I don’t think any plants have been really damaged but it is horribly early in the season!

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4 Comments on “Berry attractive: Cornus amomum”

  1. Paddy Tobin
    September 18, 2022 at 8:05 am #

    Cornum amomum looks attractive; not one I’ve noticed previously. No frost in Waterford.

  2. Chris Mousseau
    September 18, 2022 at 12:41 pm #

    A frost! In Ireland!! 😬😬😬
    Is that normal for this time of year?

    If you have room to spare, you might think of Grey Dogwood – Cornus racemosa. Nice flowers and berries plus beautiful grey bark. Suckers like crazy though, to form a nice big patch, which it is doing in my clay limestoney soil. Drought tolerant.

    • thebikinggardener
      September 18, 2022 at 6:16 pm #

      The southwest is mild and frosts are rare near the coast but I am in the southeast which has the most Continental climate of the island with the driest summers and coldest winters. I am a rather exposed site, though not much above sea level and the site slopes south. two years ago we had a frost in September, which I hoped was a one-off. Obviously it is not. Luckily it was not a severe frost. I had to leave at 5.30 am to take a visitor to the ferry and the car was frozen over. But few plants were damaged so it may not have put an end to summer – yet. I do not know that cornus and will have a look at that – thank you.

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