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Cherry Blossoms 101

The Martha Stewart Show, April 2008

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden displays more than 220 cherry trees, featuring 42 different varieties.

Hanami Celebration
Hanami is the Japanese tradition of appreciating the cherry blossom season, stretching from the appearance of the first bud to the fall of the spring's last remaining petal. This year's Hanami started April 5 and goes through May 11. Traditionally, the season serves as a metaphor for life's ephemeral nature, encourages us to pause from our hectic lives in order to appreciate beauty while it lasts, and reminds us not to take anything for granted.

In 2008 the Brooklyn Botanic Garden will celebrate Sakura Matsuri, which means Cherry Blossom Festival, May 3 and 4; it comes at the end of Hanami, coinciding with the bloom of the last -- and largest -- group of cherries to bloom. Although also based on Japanese traditions, this festival is a celebration of a wide range of both traditional and contemporary Japanese culture, including music, dance, film, crafts, art, food, and drink.

Featured Cherry Blossoms
Prunus x 'Accolade'
Prunus x 'Fudan-Zakura'
Prunus serrulata 'Shirotae'
Prunus serrulata 'Horinji'
Prunus subirtella 'Pendula' (both deep and pale pink forms)
Prunus 'Snofozam' (snow fountains)
Prunus x 'Okame'
Prunus x 'Kanzan'
Prunus mume 'Bonita'
Prunus cerasifera 'Thundercloud'

Planting a Cherry Tree
Adapt your selection to your criteria: flower (single, double, color), foliage, bark, and habit. Habits are quite variable -- some are spreading, upright, or weeping -- leading to a variety of roles they can play in the garden.

With particular regard to the weeping forms, you'll want to pay particular attention to the location of the graft union. Specimens with lower grafts are more graceful. "Top-grafted" forms can sometimes appear like an umbrella's skeleton, particularly in their youth. In either case, however, the trees can be trained in a variety of architectural ways.

Care Tips for Cherry Trees
Ornamental cherries perform best in well-drained soil with moderate moisture; they are adaptable to a range of pH conditions. They are best in full sun, but are adaptable to conditions of part sun and part shade.

Special Thanks
Special thanks to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for sharing this very helpful information about cherry trees. Everyone in our audience went home with a pair of glacier gloves, which are sturdy, warm, and great to prune with, especially when handling branches like the ones from cherry trees. And thanks to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for giving everyone a free pass to visit during April.

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