Also called Cornelian cherry, the Golden Glory dogwood tree (Cornus mas 'Golden Glory') becomes visually stunning in very early spring, along the same time early spring bulbs like winter aconite, snowdrops or glory-of-the-snow first appear. A small tree useful as a specimen or hedgerow, grow it in USDA Hardiness Zones 4b through 8a.
This species of true dogwood hails from southern Europe and western Asia. Variety 'Golden Glory' was selected by staff at the Synnesvedt Nursery Company in Illinois, U.S.A. and introduced into the ornamental horticulture trade.
In the waning days of late winter, the bare branches display little clusters of flowers called umbels. Produced in more abundant numbers than the wild species, the golden yellow blossoms persist for about four weeks. The oval deep green leaves hide the small red fruits called drupes that ripen by late midsummer and are relished by birds. In autumn the foliage attains a dull purplish red color before dropping away. At maturity, this upright small tree reaches 15 to 20 feet in height and 12 to 16 feet in canopy spread. The oldest branches exfoliate their grayish bark.
Plant the Golden Glory dogwood in any moist soil that drains well, preferably one with fertility and abundant amounts of organic matter. Tolerant of compacted soils or confining spaces, it adapts well to urban garden sites. In full sun exposures, receiving more than eight hours of sunlight daily, flowering and overall form of this tree becomes most impressive. It also tolerates partially shaded conditions, as under the branches of taller trees where it receives shifting sunlight across the day. Small suckering shoots arise from the trunk base and surface-dwelling roots. Prune these shoots away to prevent a thicket.
In the landscape, this small tree works nicely as a singular focal point in a mixed shrub border or building foundation bed. The very early spring flowering display finds it used near sidewalks or other highly visible areas to announce winter's demise, especially when under-planted with early spring-flowering bulbs. An informal hedgerow results when planted in a line and never pruned. Golden Glory dogwood also grows well in open woodland gardens, and the flowers especially look accentuated if viewed in front of a dark background, such as the branches of nearby conifers.
Although the small red fruits are edible, their taste deters people from picking them, leaving that task for local songbirds. These fruits may be made into sweetened syrups, jams and jellies or combined with other summer fruits in pastries.