I estimate we’re close to two weeks behind normal flowering in some cherries. Last year—what I consider a fairly typical year—the ‘Akebono’ trees on Kullahun Drive were at peak bloom (blossoms starting to fall) on April 5th. I drove by the same trees on Friday and they were only at about 70% open. Other trees apparently respond differently to seasonal cues and weather variations. The mystery cherry on 14th Avenue (the one I was calling ‘Oshidori’ last year, and ‘Atsumori’ for about a day this year—oh, it’s a long story) is barely a week behind, compared with 2007. Likewise ‘Ukon’, ‘Mikuruma-gaeshi’, ‘Takasago’ and ‘Tai-haku’. So, it would seem the later the cultivar normally flowers, the less it’s delayed by cold weather. I had to laugh at myself for the row of ‘Tai-haku’ we planted at UBC Botanical Garden a couple of years ago. They’re planted some 10m apart, a distance I thought was ample, but on Thursday I actually paced out the crown spread on one of the beauties in Seaforth Peace Park (west side of Burrard between Cornwall and 1st Avenue). Flower size is clearly not the only reason it’s called “great white cherry.” With the cool weather, these old trees (60 years?) should still be worth looking at this week. East of UBC, ‘Ukon’ flowers are also making an appearance, and I feel that like ‘Tai-haku’, this cultivar is seriously under-appreciated. Perhaps because of its oddly coloured flowers (neither white nor pink), people disregard it. But it’s a tough, reliable cherry, and the flowers have a subtle beauty that grows on you. One of the best places to see ‘Ukon' is south of 37th Avenue on Baillie Street (between Cambie and Oak). 2008 will undoubtedly go down as one of the coolest springs in Vancouver. I certainly don’t ever recall seeing snow on the ground on the 19th of April, but there it was. Luckily, the temperature stayed above freezing, so those cherries and other plants with open flowers (rhododendrons, camellias, magnolias, etc.), seem to be none the worse for wear after this weekend’s weather shenanigans. I happened upon a couple of aged cherry trees in flower while wandering around VanDusen Botanical Garden early yesterday afternoon. I’m nearly convinced that one is Korean Hill cherry (P. verecunda), but the tree is being overwhelmed by a number of overgrown shrubs, and great melting clumps of snow were falling through the snarled canopy, making it something of a challenge to take either notes or photographs. But for this tree, I’ll be back. I worked for nearly a decade at a wholesale nursery where we sold this species, but in all that time I don’t recall looking at it closely when it was flowering (we probably sold them all beforehand). I certainly knew it from a distance. There was a magnificent specimen on the old Bridgeport Road approach to the Oak Street Bridge. Road-widening evidently necessitated its removal some years ago. By all accounts, the species is charming, and resilient, and it would be nice to find and reintroduce it. The other tree, also seriously crowded, but with its main branches ascending strongly above the tangle, has large, elegant, single white flowers that contrast strikingly with its red sepals and emerging foliage, bracts and bracteoles. I expect that it’s a selection of the Japanese hill cherry Prunus spontanea (P. jamasakura). I’ve been walking by these trees for almost 30 years, and this is the first time I’ve noticed them in flower. Timing is everything. Similarly, in the budwood orchard at UBC, I discovered why the trees I’d assumed were unusually low, wide, bright pink ‘Akebono’ cherries, weren’t. I finally caught them at the right time and looked at them up close. They aren’t ‘Akebono’ at all, they’re ‘Pink Shell’ (see photo, taken 15 April). Never heard of it? That isn’t surprising. They were imported to UBC in the early 1990s from England. It appears the group lost its label soon after planting, and was never propagated out of the orchard. Take my word for it: ‘Pink Shell’ is spectacular (it looks to be disease free) and I’ll do my best to make it available. This is my last official blog entry for 2008, as the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival ends today. I’ll continue to post on the UBC Botanical Garden Forums site—we have another month (at least) of cherries. You can’t expect me not to sing the praises of ‘Shiro-fugen’, ‘Shogetsu’ and ‘Ichiyo’, can you? This year, the festival seems to have really broken through with the public. All of our events have been more than satisfyingly successful, and every earlier effort made on behalf of cherry trees and the festival seems to be paying dividends with increasing interest, participation and support. All I can say is that I’m elated and proud to be a part of this community. There is no stranger under the cherry tree. Indeed.