Prunus yedoensis ‘Akebono’ (daybreak cherry) is a medium sized tree with a stiff, upright-spreading crown, eventually becoming umbrella shaped, flowering in March or April, immediately following the purple-leaf plums in the Vancouver area. Flowers are produced abundantly, shell pink fading to nearly white. This cultivar is a seedling of Prunus yedoensis (Somei-yoshino cherry) that was selected by a California nursery in 1925. ‘Akebono’ is noted for its essentially rainproof flowers (often with an extra petal, as pictured here), tough constitution and freedom from disease. Autumn leaf colour is yellow to pumpkin orange.
This spring has been good for cherry blossoms. Cool and humid conditions tend to promote flower longevity and we’ve had plenty of that. The first cherries to flower in Vancouver are always downtown and in the West End, where pavement and buildings create a significant heat island effect. ‘Akebono’ was in full bloom at the Burrard Street Skytrain Station on the Spring Equinox, nearly two weeks earlier than here at UBC. You could hear the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival organizers heaving a huge sigh of relief at their big opening ceremony, the Cherry Jam, there on the 22nd. (Note from Daniel – we’ve started a Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival discussion forum to discuss the trees and identifications plus share photographs and stories.)
Speaking of good timing, Ohanami, the annual cherry viewing festival held at Nitobe Memorial Garden is happening this Saturday, 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm. Most of the cherries on display at Nitobe are Somei-yoshino–the cherry made famous through Japanese cherry blossom viewing festivals, as well as the celebration held by the American National Parks Service in Washington, DC. [I think I overheard Dr. Peter Raven, who was visiting Nitobe Garden earlier this week, remark that our ‘Somei-yoshino’ were more impressive than any he’d seen in Washington.] Nitobe and the surrounding area boasts an interesting selection of flowering cherries, including those already mentioned and (also in bloom) ‘Ojochin’ (the rare “lantern” cherry, so named for its plump buds), and ‘Shirotae’, the beautiful Mount Fuji cherry. Later in the season, ‘Pink Perfection’, ‘Kanzan’, ‘Shogetsu’, ‘Shirofugen’ and the wonderfully fragrant ‘Jo-nioi’ will captivate visitors.