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Garden Talk: In praise of cherry blossom

There’s nothing prettier than pink cherry blossom against a clear blue sky – a sign winter is behind us and spring is here. Most cherries flower from March to May and there’s a type of blossom to suit all tastes from delicate, single blooms to blousy doubles, in whites and the palest pinks to bright candy floss pink. Cherries are a great choice of tree for London gardens as many varieties don’t get too big and the foliage colours beautifully in autumn giving another season of interest. Here are 10 of the best:

Pale pink

Prunus ‘Pink Shell’
A small, elegant tree with spreading branches and delicate single, pale pink flowers – a lovely contrast to the light green leaves. This is one of the prettiest cherries and widely available. 4m.

Prunus ‘Kojo-no-mai’

A compact cherry tree/shrub – with delicate very pale pink flowers and wonderful autumn foliage. Ideal for containers. 2.5m

Prunus ‘Accolade’
A graceful spreading tree with a cloud of large pastel pink semi-double flowers in April/May. It also has smooth reddish brown bark and fiery orange foliage in autumn. Height 6/7m.

Brighter pink

Prunus ‘Kursar’

A small tree with clusters of dramatic deep pink single blooms in March to April. It has a neat upright habit and the new bronze foliage turns green then red/gold in autumn. 3/4m

Prunus ‘Okame’

A lovely tree with masses of single candy floss pink flowers in March/early April and orangey red autumn foliage. 4m

Prunus ‘Pink Perfection’
An elegant spreading cherry with masses of frilly double, bright pink flowers from April to May. Delicate bronze coloured leaves when young turn green then orange in autumn. 5m

Whites

Prunus ‘Shogetsu’  

Considered one of the finest Japanese cherries with pale pink flowers April/ May quickly fading to clouds of white blossom. It has lovely orange/red leaves in autumn. 4m 

Prunus ‘The Bride’

This is a dinky tree with a rounded shape, covered in large single white flowers with dark red centres in spring. Ideal for growing in a container or border. 2m

Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’
Unlike the others here, the tiny white flowers of this tree are now getting to the end of their season having flowered from October. A stunning tree for winter, lovely underplanted with winter flowering Cyclamen hederofolium. 8m

Prunus serrula

This gets bigger than the others here but it’s lovely as a multi-stem, which tend to stay smaller. It has small white flowers in April but is grown more for the polished coppery bark that shines out in the winter. Its leaves turn a lovely yellow in autumn. 10m

Companions

Cherries look great underplanted with a mass of Crocus tommasinnianus or Cyclamen coum. Helebores also look great interplanted with low growing ferns or try Epimedium x youngianum ‘Niveum’ – a fab semi evergreen ground cover plant with delicate white flowers in spring.

Care

Cherries tolerate semi-shade, but they do best in the sun, in well drained soil. Any pruning such as removing dead, diseased damaged or crossing branches needs to be done in the summer to avoiding diseases. When planting, incorporate lots of well-rotted garden compost in the planting hole and stake.

This article first appeared in the March 2018 issue of SE22 magazine.

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