The ephemeral cherry blossoms of spring

Prunus subhirtella ‘Rosea’ (Higan Cherry), Ross Bay Cemetery, Victoria BC, April 9, 2009)

The subtleties of blossom-watching have raised it to an art form and favoured cultural pastime in Japan, where it’s known as hanami. March and April are also time for Cherry Blossom Festivals in Vancouver and Washington, DC . While Victoria doesn’t have an official festival, it’s nonetheless an amazing place for blossoms, with thousands of Prunus (flowering cherry and plum) street trees and trees in private gardens in bloom–and the spring of 2009 is turning out to be a record year.

Varieties abound to confuse the casual observer, but also spread the enjoyment out over a longer period. Some autumn-flowering varieties can actually start blossoming around Christmas, but the real peak is in March and April. Kathy Voegtle has created a wonderful guide to Vancouver’s flowering cherries. In Victoria, a classic book by Chaster, Ross and Warren (Trees of Greater Victoria: A Heritage, published by the Heritage Tree Book Society, 1988) provides some densely packed and tantalizing hints about this city’s riches on pages 68-70.

Below, a March-flowering variety (unknown to me!) on Government Street next to a handsome Hornbeam, passers-by suitably brolly-ed up.
Moss Street in the Fairfield neighbourhood is known for the Art Gallery, the annual Paint-in in July of each year, and the Moss Street Farmers’ Market. It is also home to an incredible vista of blossoms. The first flush, shown below in April, are probably ‘Kwanzan’. The second flush (alternating trees) will likely be out in May.

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