Late Flowering Cherries
At the Scott Arboretum in the spring the flowering of the magnolias and cherries is unprecedented for its sheer beauty. Both of these collections are impressive to say the least. The flowering cherries, Prunus, are mostly massed in the Cherry Border which is across the street from the Scott Arboretum offices. The cherries are planted along Cedar Lane and lead up the President’s house across to the Meetinghouse extending all the way to the Lilac Collection. The lawn in the middle has been left mostly unplanted so the visitor can stand on the lawn and have a panoramic view of the cherry collection. Many of these specimens are well over 50 years old and therefore are mature and picturesque specimens.
In all, the Arboretum’s collection includes 66 taxa of flowering cherries. This is a collection that we are actively curating and trying to add new cultivars, especially the Japanese flowering cherries. In fact, this spring we will be receiving cuttings from both the United States National Arboretum and the Arnold Arboretum of cultivars that are not represented in our collection. We will propagate these cuttings in the Wister Center Greenhouse, and in 4 years these plants will probably be big enough to add to the collection.
The first cherries begin flowering at the end of March and continue into early April. Of course, depending on the weather the flowering of the cherries can fluctuate. This year all the cherries started flowering 7-10 days earlier than normal. As of April 9th, the earliest flowering cherries have already finished flowering and their delicate petals are cascading to the ground. This group included Prunus ‘Okame’, Prunus x yedoenis, Prunus subhirtella, P. sargentii, ‘Accolade’, ‘Fugenzo’, and ‘Hally Jolivette’.
Starting to flower are the mid-season and late-season flowering cherries. One of the most common of all the flowering cherries is just starting flowering: Prunus ‘Sekiyma’. Commonly called the Kwanzan cherry, this cherry is often seen gardens as well as at shopping malls, municipal spaces, etc. Along the storefronts in Swarthmore there used to be a row of Kwanzan cherries. This upright to vase-shaped tree has magenta pink buds that open to double bubble gum-pink flowers. In Swarthmore when the flowering was finished the pink petals would rain down like confetti. The sidewalks and streets would be beautifully decorated with a carpet of petals.
Flowering cherries can range in size from small, almost shrub-like plants to medium-sized trees that can reach forty feet tall with an equal spread. While most people will predominantly select a flowering cherry for its spring blossoms, it should be noted that all flowering cherries have fantastic fall color. In November, the small leaves turn red, orange, and yellow.
A relatively new addition to our collections is Prunus ‘Royal Burgundy’. The leaves are a shiny burgundy which when emerging provide a stunning juxtaposition to the striking deep, double-pink flowers. The tree is upright and vase-shaped. ‘Higurashi’ is a small tree. The flowers are double white that have a soft pink edge to the outer petals. ‘Ojochin’ is a somewhat upright tree in habit. The single white flowers are flushed with pink and the entire petal is ‘crinkled’ giving it a textural quality as well. ‘Manoga’ is a tall broad spreading tree. The semi-double flowers are soft pink.
One of my favorites of the late flowering cherries is ‘Ukon’. Most flowering cherries are white or pink or some shade thereof, but ‘Ukon’ is a very soft yellow-green. Its habit is very upright and the branches become laden with semi-double yellow flowers. This tree would best be displayed with a dark evergreen background such as the Japanese red-cedar, Cryptomeria japonica ‘Yoshino’ or the Oriental spruce, Picea orientalis. ‘Hizakura’ is one of the largest trees in our collection. The large semi-double flowers are soft pink. The flowers of ‘Shirotae’ are just now emerging. The double white flowers are flushed with pink.
If your are looking for a flowering cherry with strong architectural form then ‘Amanogawa’ is worth considering. This cherry has a distinct very upright habit. It could be used in formal settings where a matching pair of upright specimens might flank an entrance. The semi-double flowers are soft pink. For the small garden, ‘Shogetsu’ is a good choice. Reaching only about eight feet tall this cherry can be trained as a small tree or large shrub. The double flowers are a very soft pink.
The flowering cherries are the quintessential spring flowering tree. Since the flowers generally emerge before the foliage they are completely unmasked giving a full floral display. Because of the different flowering times; flower colors, habits, and ultimate heights and spreads, the choices for the home gardener are almost limitless.