22 March 2008

Discussion in 'Vancouver Cherry Blog' started by Douglas Justice, Mar 22, 2008.

  1. Douglas Justice

    Douglas Justice Active Member UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society 10 Years

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    Vancouver, Canada
    It seems that every cherry person I talk to (an admittedly narrow sample) can now tell the difference between the common early cherries, Prunus × subhirtella ‘Whitcomb’ (single, rosy-purple), P. ‘Accolade’ (clear pink semi-doubles) and P. × subhirtella ‘Autumnalis Rosea’ (the earliest, with small pink semi-double flowers). Even the cultivar ‘Jugatsu-zakura’ has its champions. I'm surprised that I can even remember how to spell it. The name translates as “cherry of the tenth month” in Japanese, and is the same cultivar as ‘Autumnalis’. ‘Jugatsu-zakura’ has white flowers, but is otherwise much like ‘Autumnalis Rosea’. I was really pleased to find a group of them this year where I’d remembered from several years ago.

    'Jugatsu-zakura' is probably a good example of how confusing cherry identification can be, however. Not only does “cherry of the tenth month” never seem to flower in October (or even November) in Vancouver, the seemingly innocuous translation, ‘Autumnalis’, is disallowed, not because of a misleading, temporal naming error, but because the oldest name, in the original language, takes precedence over any later name. The rules are very specific on this point. Hence, we have Penstemon 'Andenken an Freiderich Hahn', rather than Penstemon 'Garnet', but I digress. A second problem is that right now, at the vernal equinox, the flowers hanging on ‘Jugatsu-zakura’ are decidedly pink. I suppose this is normal aging, but it makes it awfully confusing for anyone who didn't also see the trees in January when they were spotted with snowy white blossoms.

    I like that I’m still learning about cherries and new cherry locations in Vancouver. Joseph Lin, the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival’s Energizer Bunny (it is Easter), found a group of Prunus ‘Okame’ the other day at UBC (right under my nose, as it were). Timing is everything, of course. I’d seen the plants a week earlier, before they were blooming, and had assumed they were a Higan cherry (P. × subhirtella) selection. In fact, 'Okame' is a modern hybrid of P. campanulata (Taiwan cherry) and P. incisa (Fuji cherry) that was produced by the famous English plantsman, Collinwood (Cherry) Ingram. I first saw P. campanulata in southern California at the Huntington Botanical Garden, where it appeared to revel in its shaded, but decidely warm surroundings. We've planted one in the Botanical Garden at UBC and I'm waiting, with bated breath, for displays of its stunningly deep pink flowers.

    I admit that for years I assumed that the Prunus ‘Spire’ on Oak Street outside the fence at VanDusen Gardens were ‘Okame’. I thought the two cultivars were similar, and I must have based this supposition on poor photographs. In truth, they’re like chalk and cheese. ‘Okame’s tiny pink flowers have spreading petals and prominently red, tubular bases, and they’re held in great, drooping clumps along the branches. My description doesn’t make the tree sound particularly elegant, and it isn’t, but the colour—a deep burgundy pink—is absolutely smashing, especially from a distance. This cultivar is depressingly susceptible to brown rot, however, which shrivels and blackens the flowers before they’ve all had a chance to fall off. I think the cool weather we’re currently having is holding off the advance of the brown rot, although with all the rain and humidity, it’s probably just a matter of time before infection takes place. In any case, it’s worth seeing these trees (now). They’re located in front of and across the street from the Fraser Parkade, near the entrance to Nitobe Memorial Garden, at UBC.

    Don’t forget Cherry Jam on Tuesday.

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