Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival in Stanley Park, April 3 to 9

Second Report, Nina Shoroplova, Cherry Scout for Stanley Park

So we grew together,

Like to a double cherry, seeming parted,

But yet an union in partition;

Two lovely berries moulded on one stem.

Shakespeare, A Midsummer-Night’s Dream III, ii, 208–211

In Stanley Park this week, the first full week of the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival, double and single cherry blossoms abound—cherry trees of various species and cultivars are in prebloom, first bloom, and full bloom stages.

There are now three groves of ‘Akebono’ moving through full bloom.

The grove of ‘Akebono’ on Chilco at Alberni near Georgia Street entrance to Stanley Park is glorious.

The grove of ‘Akebono’ on Chilco at Alberni, near the Welcome to Vancouver sign on Highway 99 is now at peak glory. What were once pale pink single blossoms are fading to white. The pollen-bearing stamens and central pistils are off white in colour terminating in light orange tips, one of the signifiers of this cherry’s cultivar. The presence of horizontal lenticels on the trunk and branches of cherry trees is another such way to differentiate a cherry tree from a plum tree, though both are members of the Prunus genus.

The delicate petals in this umbel of single ‘Akebono’ blossoms contrast with the sienna-coloured lenticels that enable this cherry tree to breathe.

The next ‘Akebono’ grove stretches from the sloping ramp above the promenade over to the roundabout at Pipeline Road. The flowering cherry trees in this area comprise several small groves and individual trees, all of which are now in full bloom and quite glorious.

This grove of ‘Akebono’ beside Stanley Park Drive is a favourite among photographers because its blossoms are almost close enough to touch when you’re walking the sloping ramp up to the Lord Stanley statue.

Prunus ‘Akebono’ from sloping ramp up to Lord Stanley statue (photo taken April 9, 2019)

On April 8, Vancouver Park Board (VPB) members were on site at Stanley Park Drive, closing it to vehicular traffic. Which is too bad, because I was thinking to give the car a run by driving around the park. Ah well. We can still bus, bike, and hike within Stanley Park, while keeping our physical distance at two metres (six feet) from each other.

VPB staff prepare to close Stanley Park Drive to vehicular traffic.

Now, this second week of April, the grove of ‘Akebono’ trees in the Shakespeare Garden (west of Pipeline Road from the Rose Garden) is closer to full bloom.

Prebloom buds promise future full bloom.

When the Vancouver Shakespeare Society and the Kilbe Shakespeare Circle put their heads together in the early 1930s, they decided to be part of the vogue of creating Shakespeare Gardens by growing and identifying some of those trees named in Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets. The Shakespeare club members planted more than a dozen trees in Stanley Park to honour Vancouver’s Golden Jubilee celebration in August 1936. The grove of ‘Akebono’ was planted at that time, and plaqued with the couplet quoted at the top of this report. Most of the original metal plaques have weathered into illegibility. In 1996, Vancouver rededicated the garden and attached new inscriptions. (Read more about the other trees in the Stanley Park Shakespeare Garden in Legacy of Trees: Purposeful Wandering in Vancouver’s Stanley Park when Heritage House publishes it in June 2020.)

‘Akebono’ grove in the Shakespeare Garden on April 8, 2020

Unseen by most people sits a small monument in Shakespeare’s honour with a plaque that reads, “He was not of an age, but for all time.” How true.

Monument to Shakespeare in Vancouver’s Shakespeare Garden in Stanley Park (photo from summer 2018)

Other cultivars than ‘Akebono’ are blooming in this part of Stanley Park: ‘Somei-yoshino’ and ‘Shirotae’.

‘Somei-yoshino’ is the hybrid parent of the cultivar ‘Akebono’, so it is fitting that three aged ‘Somei-yoshino’ are growing well among the younger ‘Akebono’ in the grassed area between the sloping ramp and the Pipeline Road roundabout.

One of three aged ‘Somei-yoshino’ growing west of the sloping ramp to the statue of Lord Stanley
These small cherry blossoms of ‘Somei-yoshino’ look similar to their cultivar offspring ‘Akebono’.

One way I can tell them apart is the ‘Somei-yoshino’ petals are notched rather than frilly.

Another elderly flowering cherry tree grows on the east side of the sloping ramp, between the ramp and the seawall. Even though I (an amateur botanist) could not see any grafting, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there, and it undoubtedly is, because the tree is sporting two different cultivars.

One tree grows ‘Somei-yoshino’ near the ground and something else in its canopy.

The cultivar near the ground is ‘Somei-yoshino’. It has small multi-notched, creamy white petals, blush-coloured calyces, and green leaves. Small wasps love its nectar. The cultivar visible from the sloping ramp has pale pink petals, purple calyces, and no leaves as yet. Leafing through the many references I have on Prunus cultivars, I wonder whether the tall part of the tree is a different Prunus serrulata cultivar, perhaps a ‘Yama-zakura’. Cherry scouts: please let me know what you think the upper cultivar is.

Whatever the upper cultivar is, the tree itself is charming.

Finally, for this week, let us walk northeast of the Stanley Park Pavilion, east of the number 19 bus loop, across the new footbridge and into the allee of ‘Shirotae’ that lead to the Japanese-Canadian War Memorial near the aquarium.

The allee of ‘Shirotae’ looking southwest.
Masses of white, double blossoms grow on the ‘Shirotae’.
Still emerging green leaves are edged with visible teeth and hairs.

Come back here next week for news about the non-grafted and rare ‘Ojochin’ that has been growing as the sentinel flowering cherry tree at the Japanese-Canadian War Memorial since the 1930s. At present, it is prebloom.

Buds on the Prunus ‘Ojochin’ at the Japanese-Canadian War Memorial continue to enlarge.

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