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for Extra-Early Spring Flowers

Anne K Moore
Photographs by Anne K Moore

Prunus Mume, Japanese flowering apricot, has been called a perfect small tree.  It blooms in mid-winter or very early spring before the leaves appear.  The secret to its success are flowerbuds that have staggered dormancy, so they bloom on developing buds even if a late freeze kills already mature buds and blooms.    

In reasonable seasons, this staggered dormancy leads to a very long bloom time, from four to eight weeks when almost nothing else is blooming.  The site of a blooming tree in January is enough to set a gardener’s heart aflutter.

You can choose cultivars that bear pink flowers or white flowers.  The flowers are often fragrant.  Some cultivars suitable for the small garden or even for growing in a container only get to 8 feet tall. ‘Beni-chidori’ (syn. ‘Benishidore’) and ‘Dawn’ are two small bushy trees.  ‘Beni-chidori’ has dark pink flowers.  Double ruffled pink flowers cover ‘Dawn’ a little later in the spring.

Growing to 20 feet, so still fittable into a small garden, are ‘Peggy Clark’ with double, rose-red flowers.  Then there is the earliest flowering apricot, ‘Rosemary Clark,’.  She shows out in large, double white flowers with red whorls of sepals underneath the flower.  ‘W.B. Clark’ and ‘Pendula’ both weep in pink flowers.  W.B.’s flowers are double. 

Full sun in fertile, well-drained soil will keep these trees healthy and happy for many seasons to come.  USDA Zones 6-9.

NOTE:  These beautiful flowering apricots will bloom after the most unpredictable up and down winters, but they will not do well in California’s Central Valley or densely populated cities where smog is a problem. 

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