Prunus

Prunus is a large family of beautiful flowering trees (and shrubs) of small or medium size, many of which are ideal for the small garden. In addition to spectacular spring or winter flower, many give.

A second display in their autumn leaf colour. Although some species and hybrids are not long lived, all succeed in any well-drained soil in a sunny position.

Under this heading we will consider a selection of the best flowering ornamental species and hybrids of almond ( Prunus dulcis), Japanese apricot ( Prunus mume), Japanese and other cherries, peach (P. persica) and plums (P. cerasifera).

Flowering Almonds Flowering Almonds

These are extensively cultivated and naturalized throughout the Mediterranean lands for their edible almonds and universally grown in gardens as an early spring-flowering small tree. They are generally trees of upright, but often ungainly, habit and like peaches subject to peach leaf curl in country districts. They are good trees for town conditions. There are a number of varieties and in particular: Prunus dukis macrocarpa, with very large pale pink or white flowers and large almonds; P.d. Praecox, a very early-flowering form with pale pink flowers; P. amygdalo-persica (dulcisx persica) pollardii, a hybrid between almond and peach which makes a very beautiful small tree, the deep rich pink flowers are particularly striking when seen against a dark evergreen background.

Flowering Apricots

The Japanese apricot, P. mume, forms a charming small garden tree, producing almond-scented pink flowers opening over an extended period in late winter and spring. A sheltered sunny site is desirable. Particularly good forms are: alboplena, with semi-double white flowers; alphandii (flore pleno), semi-double, pink, and Beni-shi-don, fragrant flowers which are an unusual shade of rich deep pink.

Japanese and other Flowering Cherries flowering-cherry

Accolade ( P. sargentiix subhirtella) is an early April-flowering variety of upright spreading habit, slightly pendulous with age. Semi-double, pale pink flowers are produced in clusters of three.

Amanogawa (serrulata erecta) is a well-known variety which forms a slender pillar up to about 15 ft. high by 2 to 3 ft. in width and is ideal for small gardens or restricted places, and for architectural planting. The flowers are fragrant, pale pink opening in mid-May.

A handsome species native of the woods of Europe (including the British Isles) and western Asia, P. avium, the gean or wild cherry, forms a medium-sized tree conspicuous in spring with its clusters of large cup-shaped white flowers, and again in autumn, when the leaves colour red. The double gean, P.a. Plena (grandiflora) is a tree of pyramidal habit and one of the best double white cherries for garden planting.

P. hillieri (incisax sargentii) is a prolific early-flowering hybrid of rather broad-headed habit. Masses of pale, soft pink, spring flowers are followed in the autumn by fiery-red leaf colour. A selection of narrow upright habit, P. hillieri Spire, forming a tree about 25 ft. high and about 8 ft. through at the widest part, is much in demand as a street tree, and is ideal for restricted circumstances in gardens.

Kanzan (sekiyama) is a popular, perhaps overplanted variety forming a vigorous medium-sized tree with stiffly ascending branches, assuming a typical funnel-shaped head in maturity. The rather harsh purplish-pink large double flowers are freely produced. For those who prefer a less garish pink, and require a tree of similar ultimate size and habit, Pink Perfection (Shimidsu Sakura x Kanzan) is ideal. Its large double bright pinloflowers, often two toned in effect, are produced on long drooping clusters with the bronzy young leaves.

Kiku-shidare Sakura makes an attractive weeping tree with arching branches, ideal as a focal point specimen for the small garden. The deep pink, very double flowers are like miniature chrysanthemum blooms.

Kursar (kurilensis x sargentii) is a very desirable early spring-flowering hybrid of upright-spreading habit. The flowers are an unusual shade of deep cerise pink. Autumn leaf colour is rich orange. Okame (campanulatax incisa) is very similar in flower and autumn colour. Both varieties were introduced by the renowned authority on ornamental cherries, Captain Collingwood Ingram.

P. padus, bird cherry, is a small or medium-sized hardy tree of wide distribution. The buddleia-like flower spikes are produced in late spring after the Japanese cherries have faded. P.p. Watereri (grandiflora) is considered the best form, making a tree of broadly pyramidal shape, festooned with exceptionally long racemes of slightly fragrant white flowers.

P. sargentii, Sargent’s cherry, is a small to medium-sized, round-headed tree, often considered to be the most desirable of all cherries; it displays its large deep pink flowers in early spring before the foliage opens; in the autumn it is one of the earliest trees to colour in rich tones of orange, scarlet and crimson.

P. serrula (serrula tibetica) is a Chinese species, forming a small round-headed tree, remarkable for the beautiful shining mahogany-coloured bark of its trunk. The white spring flowers are not conspicuous, but nurserymen are now top grafting large-flowered varieties of Japanese cherries, such as hi/lien, Shirofugen or Ukon on to 6-ft. Stems of this species, in order to make a more garden worthy combination.

Shimidsu Sakura (longipes, Okumiyako), a variety of considerable distinction and beauty, forms a small mushroom-headed tree, ideal as a lawn specimen in the small garden. The large hanging flower clusters are a delightful shell pink in bud, opening to pure white semi-double blooms, each reminiscent of a ballet dancer’s skirt.

Shirofugen forms a small flat-headed tree with wide-spreading branches. Its flowers, pale pink in bud, opening pure white and fading again to purplish pink, are produced with the young coppery-bronze leaves, making a particularly beautiful combination. The flowering period is later and more long lasting than most other Japanese cherries.

Shirotae (Mount Fuji) is an outstanding cherry most distinct in its flat-topped, horizontal-branching habit, the branches extending sometimes to a width of 30 ft. in favourable circumstances. It is best planted in isolation where there is adequate room for its development. The large snow-white single or semi-double flowers festoon the branches in early spring. One of the most effective varieties.

P. subhirtella, spring cherry, is a notable but very variable species, cultivated for centuries in its native Japan, where specimens of great size may be seen. It is usually represented in cultivation today by a number of distinct varieties which are among the finest of all spring-flowering trees. The variety rosea (ascendens rosea), pink spring cherry, forms a small tree with upright-ascending branches. The flowers are an exquisite shell pink and are enhanced by red-purple calyces. The foliage colours red and yellow in autumn. P. s. autumnalis, the autumn cherry, is a popular variety forming a small tree of open wide-spreading habit. The white, pink-tinted flowers are intermittently produced from autumn to spring as weather allows. Autumnalis rosea is identical apart from its deep shell-pink flowers. The weeping spring cherry, P. s. pendula (pendula rosea), makes a small weeping tree, ultimately about 10 ft. high and 20 ft. wide, with a dense pattern of thread-like branches weeping to the ground and arrayed in early spring with pale pink flowers. Pendula rubra has deeper pink flowers and is equally desirable.

Tai-haku, the great white cherry, forms a small tree of robust upright-spreading habit, remarkable for its very large single pure white blooms, produced most tellingly with the bronzy young leaves. It has the largest flowers of any cherry.

Ukon (serrulata luteovirens) makes a strong-growing, wide-spreading tree, of good constitution, distinct in its green or yellow-green flowers. It is very effective when planted in association with Pink Perfection or Kanzan, whose blooms are produced at the same time.

Umineko (incisax speciosa) is a welcome addition to the few varieties of narrow upright habit. It is a tree of vigorous growth with single pure white early spring flowers. The leaves colour well in autumn.

Prunus yedoensis ( speciosa x subhirtella rosea), the Tokyo cherry or Yoshino, becomes a vigorous small to medium-sized tree; its arching branches and graceful habit are typical of Japan, where it is widely planted in the Tokyo district. The single blush-white, almond-scented flowers are produced early in the spring. Perpendens is a smaller form with branches weeping to the ground.

Flowering Peaches Flowering Peaches

There are a number of varieties of peach, P. persica, grown for the beauty of their flowers in spring. Most make small bushy-headed trees, some with pendulous habit. As with the fruiting peaches, it is necessary to maintain these trees in good health by spraying, against peach leaf curl, with lime sulphur or a copper fungicide, twice in early spring as the flower buds swell, and again in early autumn.

The following varieties are particularly recommended: Crimson Cascade, a weeping variety with double carmine-red flowers; Iceberg, semi-double, snow-white flowers, freely produced; Klara Mayer (Clara Meyer), the best pink double-flowered peach; Russell’s Red, the best double red-flowered variety.

Flowering Plums

P. cerasifera, myrobalan or cherry plum, a long cultivated western Asiatic species, is usually represented in ornamental plantings by several purple-

leaved varieties or hybrids which make round-headed small trees of dense branching habit.

P. c. pissardii (atropurpurea), the purple-leaved plum, a popular if somewhat over-planted form, makes an attractive combination when associated with laburnum or one of the silver-leaved pears (pyrus). The early spring flowers are single pink in bud opening to white. P. c. nigra is an even darker-leaved form in which both stems and leaves are black purple and the flowers single pale pink.

P. blireana ( P. cerasifera pissardii x mume alphandii) I consider the most beautiful of this group, both in foliage and flower, the leaves are coppery purple and the large double flowers rose pink.

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