Magazine article Sunset

Blooms on High

Magazine article Sunset

Blooms on High

Article excerpt


Choose the right flowering cherry for your garden

Few trees can beat flowering cherries for their beauty, especially in early spring. That's when a froth of pink or white blooms cloaks their branches, scenting the air around them with a delicate fragrance.

But there's more to flowering cherries than their blooms. These trees now come in more shapes and sizes than any other spring-blooming trees-and fall color on a few kinds is sensational. For all these attributes, we have Japanese horticulturists to thank: Over the centuries, they've developed an exquisite range of single- and double-flowered varieties in pink, white, and bicolors. They've given us columnar and weeping forms, spreading varieties, and ones that bloom early and late.

For gardeners, this is great news. You can buy container-grown or bare-root cherry trees, plant them this month, and the first blooms will appear in two to four months. A sampling of varieties is listed on page 45. All take full sun and regular water, and they grow everywhere but the coldest-winter and hottest-summer climates. They're also good to garden around: Pinkflowered forms are especially pretty when surrounded by pink tulips and blue forget-me-nots.

How to keep a good cherry down

If your garden is small but you don't want a weeping cherry, try 'Hally Jolivette'. It grows 10 to 15 feet tall and bears white double flowers over a long season. Or shop for familiar cherry varieties grown on a dwarfing rootstock called Gisela. The most widely used rootstock in the series, Gisela 5, reduces the mature size of the trees by 30 percent or more and induces earlier, heavier bloom. It's available on Prunus serrulata 'Kwanzan', P. s. 'Shirofugen', P. s. 'Shirotae' ('Mt. Fuji'), P. s. 'Shogetsu', P. x yedoensis, and P. x y. 'Akebono'.

Cherries grown on Gisela root-stock-so labeled in nurseries and garden centers-are most widely available in the Northwest but are becoming easier to find elsewhere. You can order flowering cherries on Gisela rootstock from Raintree Nursery ( or 360/496-6400).

Standard uprights

These trees can be used to line a driveway or arch over a perennial bed that needs partial shade.

* Prunus 'Accolade'. Blush pink, 1 ½-inch-wide semidouble flowers appear in large clusters. Fast growing but to only about 25 feet tall and wide. Growth habit is twiggy and spreading. Early. Sunset climate zones 2-9, 14-17.

* P. serrulata 'Kwanzan'. Deep pink double flowers. Grows 30 feet tall, 20 feet wide; branches are stiffly upright. Midseason. Zones 3-7, 14-20.

* P. s. 'Shirofugen'. Pink double flowers fade to white and appear at the same time as coppery red new leaves. Fast growing to 25 feet tall and wide. Late. Zones 3-7, 14-20.

* P. x yedoensis (Yoshino cherry). This is the variety of the famous trees planted around the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. Large, pinkish white single flowers. Grows 40 feet tall, 30 feet wide; branches form a graceful, open pattern. Early. Zones 3-7, 14-20.

* P. x y. 'Akebono' (often sold as 'Daybreak'). Large, pink single flowers. Grows 25 feet tall and wide. Early. Zones 3-7, 14-20.


Naturally much smaller than most other cherries, these top out at 10 to 15 feet. All make good focal points, but because they call attention to themselves, one per garden is usually enough.

* P. serrulata 'Snow Fountains'. A prolific bloomer with white single flowers, weeping branches, and a slightly curving trunk. 12-15 feet tall. Early. Zones 3-7, 14-20.

* P. x subhirtella 'Pendula'. …

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