Tuesday, April 2, 2020, is the first day of the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival. The pale pink of ‘Akebono’, the brighter pink of ‘Accolade’, and the white of ‘Snow Goose’ provide the colours of the day, as every cherry scout knows full well. Keeping their physical distance from others, cherry scouts armed with their cameras are venturing out on their daily walks into their neighbourhoods, along their boulevards, and through their parks and mini-parks to capture the fleeting beauty of these vanguards of spring.
The experts in the cherry scout crowd—they are botanists, horticulturists, arborists, landscape gardeners, and those who have been tracking down cherry trees for so long they could give classes on the topic—are out looking for their prized favourites.
I planned my walk in Stanley Park purposefully, moving from one special tree and one flourishing grove to the next, while distancing myself from others, waving and smiling under my mask, and appreciating how much braver and bolder the birds are.
I looked closely at a cherry tree. Is it an ‘Akebono’, a daybreak cherry? Are the blossoms five-petalled? If yes, are the flower buds a deeper pink and the blossoms that grow in an umbel, fondly known as a pompom, paling to almost white? If yes, is the tree wide-spreading and flat topped, promising to become umbrella shaped? Yes. All these yeses make it sound like an ‘Akebono’, a hybrid cultivar whose white-petalled parent is Prunus yedoensis ‘Somei-yoshino’ (itself a hybrid).
Douglas Justice, one of Vancouver’s cherry experts, calls ‘Akebono’ rainproof, which is fortunate because Vancouver gets lots of spring rain. And a couple of short-lasting showers fell as I went from grove to grove in Stanley Park today. The Shakespeare Garden grove, west of the Rose Garden, is not yet in its full glory.
I was particularly excited to find three cherry trees so old they must have been planted by Alleyne Cook, the master gardener and landscape designer who planted all the cherry trees, magnolias, camellias, and a host of other ornamental and native trees along with the rhododendrons and azaleas in Stanley Park’s Ted and Mary Greig Rhododendron Garden.
Prunus ‘Accolade’ cultivar is a spring cherry hybrid cross between P. sargentii and P. subhirtella. This old specimen seems taller than the typical ‘Accolade’.
The last cultivar I photographed in this walk is a ‘Snow Goose’—a row of young ones that need a few more years to grab our attention, though a close up of blossoms shows a promise of white beauty.
I checked the grove of ‘Akebono’ in the Shakespeare Garden at Stanley Park, but they will need another week of sunshine and lengthening days before reaching their full beauty.