Cherry blos­som lifts the spir­its


A FEW years ago I had a cus­tomer who in­sisted that she didn't want any flow­er­ing cher­ries in her gar­den be­cause they only lasted for a cou­ple of weeks. I've al­ways felt that was like say­ing, I won't go on hol­i­day be­cause it's only for two weeks. But what a glo­ri­ous two weeks.

If any plant could sing it would be a flow­er­ing cherry. Not a mum­bled folk bal­lad but rather a rous­ing op­er­atic cho­rus. There are few other plants that can lift the spirit like a cherry in full bloom, the Ja­panese un­der­stand this and even have fes­ti­vals to cel­e­brate them. From the mo­ment they show bud colour, through to the ex­plo­sion of full flow­er­ing, right up un­til they drop their petals like con­fetti, they are oth­er­worldly.

Some are fra­grant and many have great au­tumn colour, they range from medium sized shrubs to quite con­sid­er­able sized trees and they grow in most soil con­di­tions that are not overly wet. They also en­joy open sunny po­si­tions. Ev­ery gar­den should have one and there is one for ev­ery gar­den.

The genus Prunus in­cludes not only cher­ries but also al­monds [P. dul­cis], apri­cots [P. ar­me­ni­aca] peaches [P. per­sica], the Ja­panese cher­ries, which are gen­er­ally hy­bridised, and then there are the na­tives ,

P. padus [ Bird cherry], P. spinosa [Black­thorn] and P. avium [ Wild cherry]. Also ,and maybe sur­pris­ingly, the nat­u­ralised com­mon lau­rel [P. lau­ro­cera­sus ] or Cherry lau­rel is also a Prunus, though not grouped with the flow­er­ing types. Whole books are writ­ten on the sub­ject of flow­er­ing cher­ries so I am only out­lin­ing the mer­its of some of the most beau­ti­ful flow­er­ing trees in the world.

The ear­li­est cherry to flower is P. sub­hirtella ‘Au­tum­nalis' with small white flow­ers in­ter­mit­tently from Novem­ber to March, there is also a pink ver­sion ‘Rosea'. Both make a tree of around 6 me­tres and are a must for any large gar­den where it is rare to find one with­out at least some flow­ers over the win­ter months.

P. ‘Ac­co­lade' is a favourite of mine as it is the ear­li­est to flower in the great pro­fu­sion that we as­so­ciate with cher­ries. It makes a spread­ing tree [ 7m x 7m] and is ab­so­lutely wreathed in semi dou­ble pink flow- ers in March. Thank­fully it seems to be a pop­u­lar choice for many front gar­dens so we all get to en­joy them, cour­tesy of some­one else.

For a small gar­den look out for P. in­cisa ‘Kojo-no­mai [Fuji cherry] which makes a stun­ning shrub of about 2 me­tres high and wide and is cov­ered in pink flower in March. It has a cu­ri­ous zig zag of branches which makes it pop­u­lar as a bon­sai . P. in­cisa ‘Mi­dori' is a white va­ri­ety with sim­i­lar at­tributes.

Two other good small cher­ries that have even made an ap­pear­ance in the su­per­mar­kets of late are P. tenella 'Fire­hill' [Dwarf Rus­sian al­mond] sin­gle pink and P. triloba [Flow­er­ing al­mond] dou­ble pink. Both can be hard pruned af­ter flow­er­ing to main­tain a size of 1 -1.2 me­tres and are wor­thy of grow­ing.

For a tight space con­sider P. ‘Amanogawa' a small up­right Ja­panese cherry with fra­grant semi dou­ble soft pink flow­ers in April and with good au­tumn colour. It makes no more than 1 me­tre across. Other Ja­panese cher­ries of note ,of which there are, and I stress, many, in­clude P. ‘Shi­rofu­gen' [8m x 8m] one of the last to flower in May and, al­though not enough to con­vince my cus­tomer, has long last­ing white, fad­ing to pink flow­ers.

If you re­ally want to make an im­pact the mighty P. 'Tai Haku' [Great White Cherry'] soars to 12 me­tres and has very large sin­gle white flow­ers. But per­haps the most beau­ti­ful of all is P. ‘Shogetsu' a wide spread­ing tree 6m x 6m with dou­ble white flow­ers , pink tinged in bud which hang on long stalks along the branches.

There are many weep­ing va­ri­eties which act as

“From the mo­ment of ex­plo­sion of full flow­er­ing, right up un­til they drop their petals like con­fetti, they are oth­er­worldly”

per­fect form to show off the flow­ers at their best and all are spec­tac­u­lar. P. x ye­doen­sis ‘Iven­sii' [ Yoshino cherry] 4m x 4m is a fine ex­am­ple, a small tree with tor­tu­ous branches that look snow cov­ered in April. Pos­si­ble even more showy is P. ‘Kiku-shi­dare-sakura' 4m x 3m a wide spread­ing tree with dou­ble pink flow­ers.

With all this beauty there has to be a beast and flow­er­ing cher­ries are no ex­cep­tion. Bac­te­rial canker is a prob­lem, symp­toms in­clude, sticky gum seep­ing from cracks in the bark and/or multi holed leaves. It can be treated with Bordeaux mix­ture but this is not al­ways prac­ti­cal on large trees.

Sil­ver leaf is a fun­gal dis­ease that en­ters through dam­aged wood. There is no chemical con­trol so re­move in­fected branches im­me­di­ately and burn. Spores are around in the au­tumn and win­ter so if you have to prune do so in sum­mer. As a gen­eral rule, with Prunus, don't prune us.

The branches of the Yoshino flow­er­ing cherry tree look snow cov­ered in April

Ev­ery gar­den should have a cherry tree and there is one for ev­ery gar­den

The ear­li­est cherry to flower is P. sub­hirtella ‘Au­tum­nalis'

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