18 of the best cherry blossom trees
Ornamental Japanese cherry blossom trees are one of the delights of spring, with their clouds of pink or white blooms. Garden writer Val Bourne recommends some of her favourites at Batsford Arboretum. Photographs Lynn Keddie
There is nothing quite as uplifting as a branch of cherry blossom silhouetted against a blue spring sky. Japanese cherry blossom trees, known in Japan as sakura, are among the most beautiful of all of the blossom-bearing trees.
The Japanese celebrate the arrival of the cherry blossom every year with a blossom festival, known as sakura matsuri. Every year many make pilgrimages to see these iconic trees, planted in famous temple gardens or besides ancient castles, and picnic beneath them to view their blossom – a tradition known as hanami.
The idea of hanami is now catching on in the UK – this year, the National Trust's #BlossomWatch day is on 23 April 2022, and the public will be asked to share pictures of beautiful blossoms on social media.
Where to plant a cherry blossom tree
Plant your cherry blossom tree in a sheltered, sunny spot. Be sure to check the height and spread.
When to plant a cherry blossom tree
Container-grown cherry blossom trees can be planted all year round, although spring and autumn are best as the soil is warm and moist. You're likely to find container-grown trees at garden centres in the spring. Bare root trees (which are often cheaper) need to be planted during the dormant season, from November to March. These are available from specialist tree nurseries and online.
How to prune a cherry blossom tree
Cherry blossom trees do not need pruning, but you can cut out crossing or dead branches in spring or summer, when the tree is less likely to suffer from silver leaf disease or canker.
18 of the best cherry blossom trees
Plant expert Val Bourne selects some favourites from the collection at Batsford Arboretum, with details on how to buy cherry blossom trees.
Prunus 'Pink Shell'
A small, elegant cherry blossom tree with spreading branches that dangle cup-shaped, pale pink, shell-shaped flowers. The blooms turn paler as they age, and as they are single, they are highly attractive to early pollinators. The attractive pale-green, serrated foliage appears at the same time as the flowers and turns beautiful shades of orange before falling in autumn.
From a seedling of uncertain origins, Prunus 'Pink Shell' is one of the loveliest cherries and is widely sold. It's an ideal tree for a lawn or front garden. 4m. RHS H6, USDA 6a-9b.
The blossom of this great white cherry looks fabulous when held erect against bronze-green, new leaves. It was reintroduced to Japan by British cherry tree expert Collingwood Ingram. 6m. AGM (Award of Garden Merit). RHS H6, USDA 6a-9b.
Prunus x yedoensis
Widely planted in Japan, this cherry blossom tree is short but wide spreading on poorer soil, but it can grow much larger if given better conditions. It has spectacular, almond-scented, blush-pink flowers. 8m. USDA 8a-9a.
This spreading cherry blossom tree, which is wider than it is tall, flowers later than most. Its light-pink buds, which open to white flowers, are sometimes likened to little ballerinas. Also sometimes known as 'Oky-Miyako'. 4m. AGM. RHS H6, USDA 6a-9b.
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Its name, which translates as the imperial yellow costume, refers to the delicate, creamy-white colour of its blossom, which resembles the greenish-yellow court robes worn in the emperor’s palace. The cherry tree flowers are also touched with cerise and green so it’s sometimes sold as ‘Tricolor’. Introduced in 1914, it’s similar to the larger-flowered ‘Ukon’. 6m.
A large, early flowering cherry blossom tree with substantial, single pink flowers that appear in March as new foliage opens to bronze. Good autumn colour follows, when the leaves turn maroon-red. It’s named after the American botanist Charles Sprague Sargent.
12m. USDA 4a-7b.
Prunus incisa 'Fujimae'
A large, slow-growing shrub or very small cherry blossom tree that is smothered with pale-pink buds that open to white in early spring. Colours up to orange in autumn and could be grown in a container. 3m. AGM. RHS H6.
A small tree that, unlike most Japanese cherries, doesn’t blaze with lots of flowers at the same time. Instead between November and April, a succession of pink buds appear, which develop into blush-white flowers. 8m.
This stunning white cross between P. speciosa and P. incisa, was bred by the British cherry blossom tree expert Collingwood Ingram in 1928. The April flowers are pure-white on an upright tree, and its name translates as seagull. 8m.
Fully double, pink cherry blossom appears as the new leaves break on branches that cascade downwards to form an umbrella. The green foliage also has attractive bright-red stems. 3m. USDA 3a-8b.
Prunus 'Pink Perfection'
Raised in 1935 at Waterers nursery in Surrey, and thought to be a hybrid seedling of ‘Shogetsu’ and ‘Kwanzan’. Its rose-pink, very double flowers last longer than most, beginning in early May. 5m. AGM. RHS H6.
This pink cherry blossom has a hint of apricot to its flowers. A vigorous, spreading tree, smothered in large, semi-double, pale-pink flowers that show up well against brownish-bronze leaves. 8m. AGM. RHS H6
This April-flowering cherry blossom tree has been grown in Japan since the the 17th century; its name is the former name for Tokyo. It is the best known of the pink frilly cherries with an inner tier of petals that is almost white. 5-6m.
Its flowers open slowly and peak in May, offering densely packed, soft-pink petals. The name means chrysanthemum cherry and is a tree the cherry expert Collingwood Ingram found to be ‘slow and stubborn’. 3m.
Its name refers to an ancient Buddhist temple in Kyoto. The soft-pink, semi-double cherry blossom flowers are held in purplish buds so the neatly arranged flowers on this small, upright tree have a unique two-tone effect. 5m.
This strong fastigiate cherry blossom tree – a cross between a P. incisa x P. campanulata hybrid and P. sargentii – was bred by Collingwood ‘Cherry’ Ingram. It bears beautiful pink blossom in early March. 12m. AGM. RHS H6.
‘Takasago’ refers to a song associated with an ancient Japanese card game. The abundant pink cherry blossom tree, held in clusters of three to six flowers, appears in April against young bronzed foliage on a slow-growing tree. 3m.
A vigorous, strong cherry blossom tree with an unmistakable flat-topped, spreading habit and pure-white, semi-double, fragrant flowers. It’s one of the earliest cherry trees to flower in spring.
As the blooms fade, the pale green, long-toothed leaves emerge. These become darker as they age over the summer, then produce a vivid orange and red display in the autumn before falling. Prunus 'Shirotae' is a good choice for a medium-sized garden or a Japanese-style garden. It looks good grown as a specimen tree in a lawn.
10m. AGM. RHS H6, USDA 6a-9b.
Where to see cherry blossom trees
Batsford Arboretum, near Moreton-in-Marsh in the Cotswolds, holds an extensive Plant Heritage collection of Japanese cherry blossom trees. These are planted in an oriental setting complete with an authentic Japanese rest house and a traditional bridge. Japanese cherry trees have been planted at Batsford since the 1960s, so the garden boasts a large collection displayed to perfection on the south-facing slope. Most cherry blossom trees flower in April, when many magnolias are out too, making for a stunning display.
Batsford Arboretum, Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire GL56 9QB.
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