Plants in Focus #3
Today we will look at a flowering cherry in my garden. Flowering cherries are from the Rosaceae family and the genus Prunus comprises some 400 species found growing naturally in the Northern Hemisphere. Prunus is the genus where all of the stone fruits are found which provides us with all the lovely edible fruits found worldwide on people’s tables and kitchens. These can also be found in all types of food production including pies, preserves, jams, drinks and many more both in commercial and domestic kitchens. Cherries can be found growing in Europe, Asia and North America.
The Japanese flowering cherries have long been collected and propagated on the many isolated islands of Japan and because of the Japanese language-spoken or visually presented this has complicated the many different varieties for non-Japanese speaking gardeners. Many people have tried to document the countless different varieties of cherries and Roland M Jefferson has endeavoured many times to document and organise the world literature and put together living collections of cherries, so as to limit the confusion with names. To understand this we need to look at the history of cherries in Japan. We can see in the literature that a lot of cherries that escaped from cultivation in Japan are progeny of species planted in mountainous areas for the purpose of ‘Cherry viewing’ which is a favourite pastime in Japan and still is. This started over 1200 years ago. There are references to cherries being planted in Japanese gardens before 794 A.D. as well. So one can see with this timeframe that natural and assisted hybridisation would have taken place many times, and many people would have introduced different cherries frequently, some would have been lost then reintroduced, renamed and so it goes on.
Prunus ‘Amanogawa’ is an ideal tree for small spaces and gardens, it is columnar in habit and rarely exceeds 2 metres in width and reaching a height of approximately 5 metres at about 20 years old. The leaves are mid green and serrated and have a slight copper colour to them when young. They turn red and gold colours in Autumn. Buds are pink and open to large flowers that are semi-double, soft pink in colour and borne in dense clusters. They will fade slightly to white.
Apparently the flowers are slightly fragrant, but I haven’t noticed them yet. This tree is adaptable to a wide range of conditions but will prefer a moist well-drained soil in full to part shade. I have noticed 2 different translations of the name ‘Amanogawa’ which are celestial river and ‘Milky way galaxy” or ‘River of the sky’. Not sure how accurate these are, so I will leave them alone(see note above about naming cherries). This tree was first mentioned in 1886 in a list of trees that were planted along the Arakawa River near Tokyo. This river is one of the main rivers flowing through Tokyo. It originates on Mount Kobushi in the Saitamam Prefecture and it empties into the Tokyo Bay. Some interesting facts of this river is that its 173km long and the widest part of it is 2,537 metres wide, yes that’s 2.5km and the drainage basin covers 2,940 square Kilometres.
This cherry is also referred to as one of the Sato-zakura Group. Sato-zakura translates as Village cherries which are cherries that are cultivated and not wild species. Village cherries refers to the fact that hybridisation has been going on for centuries in Japanese gardens and villages. The term Sato-zakura is used in England to describe cultivated Japanese cherries and many authors from Japan have done the same since the 19 hundreds. This term complies with the cultivated code and is now established in the literature. It has no taxonomic or botanical significance. Its only used to indicate Japanese cherries of uncertain pedigrees.
In the above and below photo’s you can see the pink blush and the clusters of flowers.
Below you can see it rising above the garden bed majestically
And one more for good measure