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Spring is a season loved by most and there are few people who don't rejoice when they see blossom bursting forth. There's no doubt that ornamental flowering cherries are some of the nation's favourite trees not necessarily for horticultural enthusiasts who might prefer a type of Prunus that have something for all seasons, but definitely for the homeowner who loves gardens.We have selected six cherry trees that many people regard as some of the best:
In Japan, cherry blossom is celebrated in a major way. The annual blossom festival called sakura matsuri sees thousands of people making a pilgrimage to temple gardens and revered sites in order to picnic beneath the trees during a tradition known as hanami. It's a truly stunning sight.
Here in the UK we are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing a flowering cherry for the garden.So, which tree is it to be? Each and every cherry tree has its own merits but we give below our six of the best.
Pretty in pink and white
The flowers last longer than the majority of flowering cherry trees. This makes a small tree reaching up to 6m and the double flowered, rose-pink blossom appears late April and May and stays on the tree for longer than most. It has the coveted RHS AGM (Award of Garden Merit), and quite rightly so.
Next, there's Prunus 'Fragrant Cloud', (above), also known as 'Shizuka', which is just about self-explanatory. It's a much larger specimen that many of these ornamental cherry trees, and has a spreading habit. During May it bears huge clusters of large, white, semi-double flowers and these turn pinkish as they age. Unusually, the flowers are slightly scented. Need we say more?
Prunus 'Fugenzo' is next on our list. Why? Because this produces large, drooping, double flowers which look pink in bud, then they open to white, changing to pink again when they age. The small tree is spreading and will reach a height and spread of around 8m. The foliage is coppery-coloured when young, giving this tree a range of interest across more than one season.
Prunus Hokusai (above) is one of the older ornamental cherry varieties and the reason it is still one of the most popular is because of its reliability. The graceful tree forms a wide, spreading shape and it produces delightfully large, semi-double, pale pink flowers in April and May. They contrast beautifully with the young brownish-bronze leaves and the season of interest is extended into autumn when the leaves change to orange and red.
This ornamental cherry (above) is quite a surprise. It's name is Prunus pendula 'Ascendens Rosea' and one might expect, therefore, that it would have a weeping form. However, the branches are fairly upright, almost like a silver birch. Some of the smaller branches and twigs, however, weep downwards and this gives it a graceful appearance. It is considered to be one of the best forms of Prunus pendula. The pale pink blossom is produced in profusion during spring. The tree is fairly small, reaching a height of up to six metres or so, given time.
Our sixth and final choice for this limited selection of beauties is quite different from the rest. Prunus 'Chocolate Ice' (pictured above) sounds as mouth-watering as it looks. It gains its name due to the colour of the foliage. It's not exactly chocolate, but a deep coppery-brown when the leaves are young. They create a perfect foil for the large, single, blush-white flowers in April. When viewed against a clear blue sky, it's unforgettable.This upright tree spreads gradually as it ages and eventually grows up to 7m or so when mature.
How to care for an ornamental cherry tree
Flowering cherries are easy provided you choose a sunny site that won't get waterlogged. They can cope with most types of relatively fertile soil but won't tolerate boggy ground for long periods of time. They are not drought-tolerant so will appreciate a drink if we are lucky enough to enjoy a long, dry spell. On planting, give your cherry a stake to anchor it into the ground whilst its own roots are establishing. A well-placed low stake is effective and won't affect the appearance. It is, in fact, healthier for a tree to move a little in the wind as this encourages it to develop strong roots.
Most cherries don't need to be pruned. Just check for crossing or rubbing branches and make sure you prune off anything that gets broken or damaged. An open canopy allows a free-flow of air and keeps disease at bay so thin out an overcrowded head. Bear in mind that ornamental cherries are grown for their blossom, form and autumn colour, but not fruit! Most importantly, ensure to water and feed your plant regularly during the first year after planting. This is a vital period in which it will begin to establish in its new position.