Cornelian Cherries: A Perfect Jam Cherry
Cornelian cherry bush (Cornus mas) is a delightful addition to any garden or orchard. This small deciduous tree or large shrub is prized for its early spring blooms, vibrant red fruit, and hardy nature. Growing your own Cornelian cherry bush can provide you with a unique and delicious fruit that’s perfect for jams, juices, and even fresh eating. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the steps to successfully cultivate and care for Cornelian cherry bushes, whether you’re an experienced gardener or just starting.
1. Selecting the Right Location:
The first step in growing Cornelian cherry bushes is choosing the right location. These plants thrive in full sun to partial shade, making them versatile for various garden settings. Ensure the chosen spot has well-draining soil with a slightly acidic to neutral pH. Avoid low-lying areas prone to waterlogging.
2. Soil Preparation:
Cornelian cherries prefer loamy, well-drained soil. Prepare the planting area by loosening the soil to a depth of at least 12 inches. Incorporate organic matter like compost or well-rotted manure to improve soil fertility and drainage. A soil test can help you adjust the pH if necessary.
3. Planting Cornelian Cherry Bushes:
Plant Cornelian cherry bushes in early spring or late fall when they are dormant. Dig a hole that’s about twice the width of the root ball and just as deep. Gently remove the plant from its container and place it in the hole. Backfill with soil, pat it down, and water thoroughly. Space multiple bushes 8 to 10 feet apart to allow for proper growth.
Cornelian cherry bushes have moderate water requirements. Water newly planted bushes regularly to keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Once established, these plants are drought-tolerant, but it’s still essential to provide consistent moisture during dry spells.
In early spring, apply a balanced, slow-release fertilizer to promote healthy growth. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for dosage. Avoid excessive nitrogen, as it can lead to vigorous vegetative growth at the expense of fruit production.
Pruning Cornelian cherry bushes is relatively simple. In late winter or early spring, before new growth begins, remove dead or diseased branches and any crossing or crowded stems. This helps improve air circulation and sunlight penetration. Additionally, prune to shape the bush and maintain the desired height.
Cornelian cherry bushes are self-fertile, but having multiple bushes can improve fruit set and yields. Bees and other pollinators are attracted to the early spring flowers, aiding in pollination. If you’re concerned about pollination, consider planting two or more bushes for better results.
8. Pests and Diseases:
Cornelian cherries are relatively pest and disease-resistant. However, be vigilant for common garden pests like aphids, scale insects, and leafhoppers. Regular inspections and appropriate treatments, such as neem oil or insecticidal soap, can help manage infestations.
Cornelian cherries typically ripen in late summer or early fall, depending on your location. The fruit is ready to harvest when it turns a deep, glossy red and feels slightly soft to the touch. Use scissors or hand pruners to cut clusters of cherries from the bush, leaving a short stem attached. They can be enjoyed fresh, made into jams, jellies, or incorporated into various recipes.
10. Winter Care:
Cornelian cherry bushes are hardy and can withstand cold winters. However, if you live in an area with harsh winters, consider mulching around the base of the plant to protect the roots from freezing temperatures. A layer of organic mulch will also help retain moisture and suppress weeds.
Growing Cornelian cherry bushes can be a rewarding experience for gardeners of all levels. With the right location, soil preparation, and care, you can enjoy an abundant harvest of these unique and delicious fruits. Whether you’re planning to make preserves, juices, or simply savor them fresh, Cornelian cherries are a delightful addition to your home garden.