is almost time to say goodbye to the winter of 2009. Soon, bleak days of brown and icy white will give way to the
smell of earth and the sweet perfume of flowers.
Prunus genus, which contains ornamental flowering cherry trees, is a
hardy herald of spring. Some bloom
even before the eastern redbud, Cercis canadensis. They bring spring on with softness,
style, and grace.
favorite found in many gardens, from Seattle, Washington to New York's Liberty
Park to Washington D.C. and places farther south, is the Prunus serrulata
'Kwanzan' (sometimes listed as 'Kanzan').
It covers itself with clusters of pale pink double flowers. The flowers dangle, gathered in
larger-than-life powder puffs all over the tree. This one stands up to bursts of heat without going past
<![if !vml]><![endif]>Yoshino cherry trees, P.
x yedoensis, have full
heads of flowers that seem to float in ethereal clouds above the trunks in the
early spring. They are later blooming
than the Kwanzans, which makes them more reliable in changeable weather
along with the Kwanzans, are the famed Potomac cherry of Washington D.C. Yoshinos are slow growing. They bloom when small with fragrant
flowers that open pink and change to white. They can eventually make a good shade tree of about 40 to 50
feet tall. They like full sun but
will tolerate the high, filtered shade of pine trees and keep on blooming.
Prunus 'Okame', a hybrid of P. campanulata and P. incisa has a longer bloom
time than other ornamental cherries.
Its clear pink flowers, appearing before the leaves, will stand up to
come in many forms. There are
columnar forms, as the P. serrulata 'Amanogawa' or White-Column Cherry. There are several weeping forms,
including a white flowered semi-weeping 6-12 foot tree called Prunus x 'Snow
Fountains'. Another is P. x
yedoensis 'Shidare Yoshino', the Weeping Yoshino cherry. It grows to only about 15 feet
tall. There are small rounded
forms like the 'Shogetsu' and short cultivars with spreading crowns like the P.
serrulata 'Mt. Fuji'.
have deep pink flowers while others sport pale pink or white. They can have single or double flowers
and some are fragrant. The bark
can be pebbly or smooth, brown or red, shiny or dull. The leaves mostly are deep green, although some have deep
red tinged foliage in the spring.
Still others have good fall color of red or yellow. Some do not, just having so-so
color. However, it is the flowers
that attract growers, not the leaf color.
entire Prunus group likes moisture but not wet feet. They need a well-drained site that is
moderately fertile. Sun is best to
promote the densest flower set.
them where you can see them through a window or near a drive where you can enjoy
them coming and going. They are a cheerful
sight on the gloomy, nippy days of spring.