Tuesday, March 31, 2009
First Cherry Blossoms
I have signed up to be a cherry blossom scout for the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival and here's the object of my first posting: a small Whitcomb in bloom at 26th and Main. Last night I went to a talk by Douglas Justice on the subject of blossom biology. He fell in love with ornamental cherry trees on his early morning paper routes as a teenager. He loves the poetry of ornamental cherry blossoms and used to take his friends walking around the city at night on tree-spotting expeditions. Justice brought some branches he had forced to show us some examples of the blossoms so we could literally pick them apart.
Apparently there are about 1700 ornamental cherry trees in Vancouver. To learn how to identify them, Justice recommended a book called Japanese Flowering Cherries by Wybe Kuitert, or you can buy Justice's book called Ornamental Cherries in Vancouver. There are some good basic things to learn, like how to tell the difference between a cherry tree and a plum. (Hint: look closely at the petals.) Apples and plums have claw-shaped blossoms, becoming very narrow where they attach to the calyx. Cherry tree bark is also very distinctive on many of the trees (as you can see on the post I did below on the Weeping Higgans).
Here are some excerpts from my notes:
Akebonos often have a noticeable extra petal or half petal in one in ten blossoms. Shiroto blossoms have a faint almond fragrance. Taki-nioi (Fragrant Waterfall) have an even stronger almond fragrance, and you can see one of these rare trees in the Nitobe Garden at UBC. Umineko (Seagull) has curved white petals, and you can see an example in Queen Elizabeth Park. The Rancho trees have a very upright shape and the new leaves and buds are very sticky. Ama-no-gawa (Heaven's River) has flowers that stick straight up from the branches. Takasago's blossoms hang in balls like fluffy white baseballs. Mikuruma-gaeshi (The Royal Carriage Returns) has double and single blossoms; an apparent contradiction which was the cause of a long ago royal argument.
Ukon (Turmeric) cherry trees have a yellow tinge and can be seen on the south side of the Oakridge shopping centre. Shogetsu (Moonlight through Pine Trees) are very old, venerated trees. The Shiro fugen are the last to blossom in Vancouver and can hold their blossoms for up to one month. All these cherries are grafted on to sweet cherry stock, which is often problematic, causing many of these trees to be diseased. The UBC Botanical Garden is going to try a new program growing cherry varieties on their own stock. It will take longer, but the gardeners hope to create more resistant cherry trees this way.