Blossom trees are one of the heart stopping sights of spring – a sign that winter is behind us and spring on the way. In Japan the custom of ‘hanami’ involves admiring the transient beauty of blossom and the National Trust is running a project to create circles of blossom trees in our cities to give people a space for hope as we recover from the pandemic. One of the first circles of blossom trees is in east London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park where 33 trees, including cherries and hawthorns represent the cities 32 boroughs and the city of London.
One of the loveliest blossom trees has to be cherries. Flowering from March to May, there’s a blossom to suit all tastes from delicate, single blooms to blousy doubles, in whites and the palest pinks to bright baby pink. 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 for smaller gardens:
1. Prunus ‘Pink Shell’
A small, elegant tree with spreading branches and delicate single, pale pink flowers – a lovely contrast to the light green leaves. One of the prettiest cherries and widely available. 4m.
2. Prunus ‘Kursar’
A small and popular ornamental cherry tree and one of the first to flower with clusters of 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. Height 3/4m
3. Prunus ‘Accolade’
Another pretty cherry, with a a graceful spreading shape and a cloud of large rose pink semi-double flowers in April/May. It also has smooth reddish brown bark and fiery orange foliage in autumn. Height 6/7m.
4. Prunus ‘Okame’
A lovely tree with masses of single candy floss pink flowers in March/early April and orangy red autumn foliage. 4m
5. Prunus ‘Pink Perfection’
An elegant spreading cherry with masses of frilly double pink flowers from April to May. Leaves are a delicate bronze colour when young before turning green then orange in autumn
6. Prunus ‘The Amanogowa’
A small pillar shaped tree when young, spreading as it gets more mature. Popular in small gardens, it has large blowsy semi double pink bloom in late April. 6m.
7. Prunus ‘Kojo-no-mai’
A dinky cherry tree/shrub – with delicate very pale pink flowers and wonderful autumn foliage. Ideal for containers. 2.5m
Considered one of the finest Japanese cherries with dramatic clusters of large frilly double pale pink flowers, quickly fading to clouds of pure white blossoms. 4m
9. Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’
Unlike the others here, the tiny white flowers of this tree don’t flower until October. A stunning tree for winter. 8m
10. Prunus serrula
Lovely as a mulit-stem, it has small white flowers in April but is grown more for the polished coppery bark that shines out in the winter. (10 m)
Cherries tolerate semi-shade, but they do best in the sun, in well drained soil. Any pruning such as removing dead, diseased or damaged branches, or those that cross, needs to be done in the summer so that wounds heal before the winter, avoiding diseases such as bacterial canker. When planting incorporate lots of well-rotted garden compost in the planting hole and stake.
Cherries look great under planted with spring bulbs such as Crocus tommasinianus and hyacinths such as ‘Woodstock’. Spring flowering perennials such as Epimedium x youngianum ‘Niven’, Pulmonaria ’Blue Ensign’ and bergenia also look good.
This article first appeared in the April issue SE22 magazine.