Greenbelt

Blossom in April

In Japan they call it Hanami, the annual celebration of cherry blossom, and they've been marking it for more than 1000 years. There, friends and families gather together to have picnics beneath the trees, all the while marvelling at the candyfloss-laden branches that spread out overhead.

 

Once cherry blossom was also prolific here but now the mass-plantings of the 1920s and 30s are reaching the end of their natural lifespan so cherry trees are disappearing from our streets. Helensburgh, with its tree-lined streets has traditionally been one of the best places in Scotland to enjoy cherry blossom and here residents have taken the matter into their own hands, forming the Helensburgh Tree Conservation Trust which since 2002 has planted more than 2000 new trees.

We could all take a leaf out of their book because ornamental cherries make perfect garden trees. They seldom outgrow their space and often they provide beautiful bark and vivid autumn colour as well as glorious blossom in spring.

April is when cherries are at their best and we need to cross our fingers so that sharp frosts and high winds don't bring the season to an abrupt end. But if the weather does stay fine then according to Catherine Erskine, Chair of Discover Scottish Gardens, the network of more than 130 gardens and nurseries across the country, there are many places here where the spring blossom is  spectacular, amongst them Attadale on Loch Carron  and Falkland Palace in Fife.

"It's not just cherry trees that contribute to the display, new orchard plantings have given us many more flowering fruit trees and some kinds of clematis look just like blossom," she says.

Tony Garn of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh says that gardeners who have a cool greenhouse can enjoy blossom season from February when the apricot, Prunus armeniaca and almond, P. dulcis both come into flower. Outside it is a large spreading pear from Central Asia, Pyrus korshinskyi, that is the most floriferous blossom tree at the RBGE and Tony also recommends Pyrus calleryana, a pear tree with white blossom; the Yoshino cherry, Prunus x yedoensis which has a wide, spreading habit and pink-tinged flowers and the crab apple, Malus hupehensis which was brought back from China in the early 1900s by plant collector EH Wilson who considered it the finest blossom tree of all those he had introduced into cultivation.

Cherry blossom featured frequently in the works of artist E A Hornel, who was one of the 'Glasgow Boys' and cherry trees continue to grow today in his garden in Kirkcudbright, which has been restored by the National Trust for Scotland. Spring arrives early in this corner of Scotland making Dumfries & Galloway one of the best parts of the country to catch blossom season at its best.

Agnes Stevenson