Wednesday, 20 April 2016

great white cherry

The great white cherry, 'Tai-haku', is at its absolute flowering peak.  The flowers are single, large for a cherry at up to a couple of inches across, and carried in generous clusters.  And white, obviously.  They open just before the leaves, and are at their most glorious for no more than a couple of days before starting to fall.  The Systems Administrator spent some time this morning photographing the tree, so that we'd have a souvenir for the next fifty-one weeks until it does it again.

Flowering cherries have had a bad rap in recent years in fashion terms, their punishment for having been too popular in the middle of the last century.  One season trees, the cry went up from about 1980 onwards, one week of blossom then nothing for the rest of the year.  Instead Amelanchier was touted as the new darling, the delicate flowers like butterflies, the bright autumn colour, the fruit. If I were worried about garden fashions I wouldn't plant an Amelanchier now, as in another ten years it will have become the arboricultural equivalent of the avocado bathroom suite.

The cherry detractors are in any case wrong.  'Tai-haku' is a decent tree at all times of the year.  It has a spreading habit, holding its branches strongly horizontally thus creating a very natural looking space in which to put a seat.  Sitting under the crown of a great white cherry in full flower and looking up through the branches to the pure blue of a spring sky is as classy a garden experience as you will find, while seats always look the better for having a reason to be there.  The young leaves are a pleasant shade of bronze, and the autumn colour is good.  It isn't the longest lasting display, but nor is that of the Amelanchier x grandiflora 'Ballerina' which I also grow, and whose autumn leaves are honestly a rather dirty shade of red, three times out of four.

'Tai-haku' has a romantic back story too.  It was thought to be lost to horticulture, then in 1926 a British gardener and acknowledged international expert on cherries Collingwood 'Cherry' Ingram was shown a painting of it at a Japanese cherry conference, and recognised the lost plant which he knew a rather poorly specimen growing in a garden in Sussex.  I used to believe that story implicitly.  Nowadays I wonder whether the Sussex cherry was really the same as the one in the painting shown to Cherry Ingram.  The Japanese paintings I've seen have not been that strongly representational, and one white cherry might look like another, portrayed as an elegant Japanese brush and ink wash.  No matter, 'Tai-haku' is a splendid tree.  It will grow broad in time and is not one for a tiny garden.

When I sat down to write this post I thought I should focus on the positive and tell you about something nice.  I am pleased with 'Tai-haku' but what I am really exercised about is the rabbits. They have eaten all my fritillaries in the gravel by the entrance, except for one clump that were hidden behind an artwork, and grazed the Omphalodes verna in the sloping bed down to stumps, likewise the asters in the island bed, while the previously emerging clumps of Althea cannabina have vanished entirely.  I am Very Annoyed.

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