Cherry blossom

by James Alexander-Sinclair

The country is awash with cherry blossom. From wild cherries in spinneys to extravagant garden displays.

Cherry blossom on a cherry treeThe country is awash with cherry blossom. From wild cherries in spinneys to extravagant garden displays. It's such a brief moment that we should grasp it with both hands, for soon there'll be nothing left but scattered petals lying like spilt confetti.

The Japanese have always taken cherry blossom very seriously. It began in the eighth century when Emperors (accompanied by poets, singers and assorted liggers) would gather beneath a tree to celebrate its blossom. Today there's still a great interest in 'flower viewing" (hanami, in Japanese), with special alerts on television to tell people where the trees are flowering. As in this country, flowering begins earlier in the warmer south and slowly tracks northwards.

There's a great deal of symbolism in the whole thing. The blossom represents female beauty and love (which is pretty obvious given the delicacy of the flowers) but also the fleeting nature of both beauty and life. I told you they took it very seriously.

There are so many types of blossom to choose from that it all gets a bit confusing. But my top five at the moment are:

One thing you should be aware of, as I mentioned, is the length of the flowering season. Like the lives of James Dean or Tupac Shakur, it's short and spectacular. Thereafter, the leaves can be a bit dull and cast a lot of dry shade, so be wary of planting cherries as the sole centrepiece in a small garden. Plant small trees instead.

There are great collections of cherries at the Batsford Arboretum in the Cotswolds and Hergest Croft in Herefordshire.

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Gardeners' World Web User 21/04/2009 at 12:43

I wasn't hit with a booking fee. It's because I'm a subscriber!

Gardeners' World Web User 22/04/2009 at 08:52

Can anyone help explain, my work collegues and I are confused by a cherry tree near our office. It's quite a large mature tree covered with white flowers but with one branch of large 'knicker-pink' flowers. My bet is grafting gone a bit wrong but looking good.

Gardeners' World Web User 22/04/2009 at 19:14

As a student in America I visited Washington D.C. at cherry blossom time and was blown away by the beauty of it. The delicacy seemed just right for the plan of the city and its majestic buildings.

Gardeners' World Web User 23/04/2009 at 16:00

I am pleased to learn about the "fleeting beauty" thing - perhaps I knew about it and forgot ... we used to live in Tokyo and were dismayed that the blossoms seemed to appear and disappear within a very short period of time whereas the blossom in the UK seems to last for weeks .....

Gardeners' World Web User 23/04/2009 at 16:31

GreenThumbelina: Having also lived in Tokyo, I was also a little frustrated at the brevity of the blossom period. In Tokyo most of the trees seem to be of the same "Yoshino" variety; so they all bloom and fall at the same time. In England there seems to be more diversity of cherry which makes for a more drawn out season, though one that is at no point as spectacular as that in Japan. Happymarion: in case you don't already know, many of the cherry trees in Washington DC were a gift from the Japanese government.

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