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Yoshino cherries signal spring

Nancy Brachey
Nancy Brachey writes about gardening for The Charlotte Observer's weekly Home & Garden section.

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  • Ask Nancy

    Q. My Confederate jasmine looks like winter killed it. The leaves are browning. What should I do about it?

    A. Just wait. The damaged leaves will probably fall off. But I doubt the stems were killed this winter. They should show signs of new growth when stimulated by warm spring weather. Once it is clear that dead wood exists, you can trim that off gently. But wait and see what happens in three or four weeks. Hopefully, the flower buds were not killed, even if the leaves did suffer and turn brown.

We’ve had starts and stops of spring beauty the past few weeks, but nothing says it is really here like the first blooms of the Yoshino cherry trees. When I saw their pink buds on Sunday, I felt like cheering.

The Yoshino ranks among the most popular ornamental trees. Along with the saucer magnolia, flowering dogwood and redbud, it makes a spring statement that is impossible to ignore or forget. Each, of course, brings a very different look to the landscape.

The Yoshino is a large ornamental tree, capable of rising 25 feet and higher and bearing the distinctive feature of a broadly spreading canopy. That canopy produces a cloud of white flowers that open from the early pink buds. It is a sight made especially famous by the collection in Washington, D.C., that was planted more than a century ago.

In Charlotte, a group of Yoshino cherries have bloomed in Freedom Park every spring for many decades, and it is a sight that never fails to impress.

While these public places make the Yoshinos a tree for everybody, they are also well-suited for the home landscape. There they can become a signature plant that will be the star of the whole spring scene. Even if you already have magnolias, dogwoods and redbuds, the Yoshino will diversify and stretch the blooming season.

It is reasonably easy to grow and long-lived. And it has an interesting botanical history. It did not originate as its own species in the wild of Asia but developed as a cross of two other types of cherry trees propagated by cuttings to ensure an identical plant.

The botanical name is Prunus x yedoensis. Some named variations exist, such as Akebono, which has a very wide canopy of pink flowers, and Snow Fountains, a weeping form dripping in white flowers.

When shopping, pay careful attention to the mature width, as this will dictate placement. There is no reason to ruin the perfect beauty of a mature Yoshino because its limbs are running into something, like your house. Give it the space and sun it requires. A small amount of shade will be OK, but not much. If you are keen to plant now, do so, but pay very close attention to watering the young roots through the summer. Or wait until late autumn or next winter to plant it.

While a young Yoshino may not seem too grand, just give it time to develop and turn into the valuable, beautiful asset that you see in public and private landscapes everywhere.

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