Here’s a little history: Japanese cherry trees, as they were known, were first introduced to the United States in the 1800s—although their history in the East dates back more than 1,000 years. It was 1912 when the Brooklyn Botanic Garden planted one of its first trees. And subsequent plantings have been carefully tended. After all, life is short for these treasures. Typically, a tree lives no more than 30 to 50 years.
Though we think of them as fruit trees, it is the flowers, not the fruit, for which these small beauties are valued. Some blooms come to light on bare branches; others show up just as young verdant shoots come into leaf. Either way, there’s something almost irresistible about these trees.
Can you grow your own cherry trees?
“The biggest challenge for home growers in northern climates is that late spring frosts can kill the flower buds,” says Mark Fisher, Director of Horticulture at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Further, the trees are susceptible to insects and disease. But as residents of some of Canada’s larger cities can attest, certain varieties thrive. Yoshino cherry trees (Prunus ×yedoensis), which have fluffy white or pink blossoms and are among the earliest to bloom, have been a mainstay in Toronto’s High Park since the late 1950s. And in spring, Vancouver’s streets are lined with pink blossoms, not to mention those that appear at the city’s own annual festival. “The best source [for finding out how to grow them] is your local botanic garden, or a reputable nursery in your area. The staff there will know which varieties of flowering cherries will grow near you,” Mark says. With a little bit of thoughtful guidance, you can bring the timeless pleasure of these pink and white blossoms to your own garden.
photo shown: a Yoshino cherry