“Weak and puny” … but welcome in winter Essay

“Weak and puny’ . . .

but welcome in winter Like single-issue candidates, the flowering cherry known as Prunussubhirtella “Autumnalis’ owes its popularity to one virtue, ablooming season that starts as the last autumn leaves are turning andcontinues in fits and starts through winter. The milder the weather and the more sheltered the trees, the betterthe bloom. For this reason, “Autumnalis’ cherry blossoms aresafer west of the Sierra, though trees grow in all but the coldest areaseast of the mountains.

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Don’t expect flowers as large or colorful as those onlater-flowering cherries. As English horticulturist Hugh Johnson wroteabout this 80-year-old variety, “One can forgive the flowers theirweak color and puny size when they are the only ones in thegarden.’ The two trees pictured above in a Tacoma, Washington, garden wereplanted bare-root in 1972.

They’ve bloomed well every year since,peaking between Thanksgiving and Christmas but giving a final flush ofbloom around the first of March. (In California’s San JoaquinValley, they may begin to bloom as early as November 1.) By 1981, theyhad reached 15 to 20 feet in height. If left unpruned, they will topout at about 25 to 30 feet. A flattened-looking crown and loose branching habit are typical. “Autumnalis’ is available in nurseries this monthbare-root; some container plants may be available also, with more tocome in June.

When you look for it, you may come across two confusinglysimilar cherries. P.s. “Autumnalis Rosea’ is simply an”Autumnalis’ with pink flowers. P.

s. “Rosea’ (alsosold as P.s. “Whitcombii’), however, is a different cherry; itcan flower as early as Christmas but does not have the flush oflate-fall bloom that’s so ingratiating in “Autumnalis.’ Photo: Borne on leafless stems in winter, semidouble whitishflowers have pink-to-crimson stamens Photo: Entry gets summer shade, winter bloom from”Autumnalis’ cherries

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