Prettier in pink: The push to remake Japan's cherry blossom season

By Hiroshi HIYAMA

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Elsewhere, efforts in Yokohama to axe around 300 cherry trees along a busy street caused public outcry and made television news.

I live in a neighborhood with a lot of cherry trees and the reason for these public outcries is that when they chop these trees down they replace them with….nothing.

Our main cherry tree lined street has been slowly deprived of trees one by one over the years and is starting to look as bland, ugly and shadeless as every other street in urban Japan as it loses its tree cover with nothing to replace it.

Its not irrational for residents to value these trees even though city bureaucrats may view them as a headache.

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I’m all for increased diversity within Japan, beginning with cherry blossoms and continuing with the country’s man-made cedar-forest disaster (i.e., the Forestry Agency’s decades-old campaign to clear-cut forests and replant them with Japanese cedar and cypress).

20 ( +20 / -0 )

The Somei-Yoshino 染井吉野cherry requires space that the neighborhoods of Tokyo don’t have. They are oak size specimens with artistic horizontal limbs.

A better alternative would be the Yoh-Sakura 陽櫻 that is fastigiate in form but with better angles where branch meets trunk. They are planted on the east side of old Yamate-dori from Don Quixote down to Naka-Meguro station.

I wonder if Hideki Tanaka could or if he is recommending these cherry alternative varieties to the Bureau of Construction 第二建設局 or the Parks & Recreation Department in the wards.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

Aside from the popular white-pink colour, Somei Yoshino completely bloom before they leaf out, so you get trees decadantly covered with pink with no spots of green in the way. This is now established as the look people want to get in their photos. It doesn't happen with all flowering trees, other sakura varieties included.

We have a yama-zakura tree that's healthy but has leaves that get heavily eaten every summer. I think lots of trees in parks and popular spots get sprayed to stop this happening.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I liked very much a park where they had the greenish Gyoikou Sakura, but I imagine this variety will never become popular since it is not as spectacular as the pink varieties. Still, I think it would be good if every place had the flexibility of choosing the strain of tree that is more appropiate to that location, maybe even mixing them and get a longer season thanks to differences in blooming times.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

The blooms of the ubiquitous somei-yoshino strain, which accounts for more than 90 percent of the cherry trees planted in Japan, last only around a week and tend to emerge simultaneously in a given region because the trees are clones of a single specimen.

Sounds like a lot of the Japanese population, well at least in the workforce.

Instead, he hopes to encourage people to "learn about the profound diversity of cherry trees".

"The somei-yoshino will always be the main draw for cherry viewing. I want to help communities create other places where people can enjoy all kinds of cherry varieties."

This could also be used as a metaphor to describe the population in Japan.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

Too many city planners are trained to treat trees as an enemy, and then spend their careers getting rid of them, globally. London Planes are iconic trees in their home city, but are under constant threat.

It helps to grow the right plant in the right place. There are lots of sakura varieties. Mine include two tiny ones ('Kojo-no-Mai' and the Kurile Cherry, Prunus nipponica var. kurilensis) which live in small pots and would happily flower on a Japanese apartment balcony or in front of the house. Many others can be kept smaller simply by being grown in pots or large tubs and treated like giant bonsai.

'Amanogawa' is popular in suburban front gardens in the UK as it grows straight up (fastigiate) with a limited width but a decent height. Japanese cities could be peppered with such varieties without upsetting city planners, reserving the bigger ones for parks.

Camera-wielding ume blossom fanciers appreciate a wide diversity of blossom forms and colours, so there is no reason not to do the same for sakura. Prunus can suffer from a range of problems including canker and die back, which varies across the different varieties. Pick a variety that is right for your circumstances, and is robust.

Fruiting cherries are grafted on to dwarfing rootstocks to make the fruit easier to pick. It may be worthwhile experimenting with specific rootstocks for sakura that are to be grown in restricted spaces.

Named varieties must be vegetatively propagated, but you can grow your own from seed - many Japanese cherries do produce seed in tiny fruits. Get to it before the birds do, pot it up, leave it outside over winter to break dormancy, and you should have a new plant, with different characteristics to the named parent varieties. If you grow Sakura, check plant pots and borders for seedlings in spring.

You can extend your season with Prunus × subhirtella 'Autumnalis' (the 'Winter-Flowering Cherry'). Ume are usually smaller than sakura, bloom earlier and are often happy in tubs, so don't forget them. Single flowers are better for wildlife than double flowers, where some or all of the stamens have been replaced by petals.

Although there is a lot of information on the net, 'Japanese Flowering Cherries' by Wybe Kuitert is useful. Also ''Cherry' Ingram' by Naoko Abe.

There is a Sakura for every location. Planting more would make our cities a lot greener.

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The area where I live had an area that was maintained by the government to help promote greenery. It was full of beautiful sakura trees and ume trees, but they completely got rid of the trees and are now starting to build some ugly looking houses. I guess this area was used as a ground to raise these trees and later transport them to other locations. One lucky neighborhood will be receiving the beautiful shidare-sakura.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

They are afraid of worm infestations, esp during summer, that's why they have been cutting sakura trees in our area.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

My neighbour cut down a very old and beautiful tree on city land so they could have a view. I have complained to the city hall, and hope to sue them. My street has many cherry blossom trees and many tourist and cyclists and local people enjoy walking along it.

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Gorgeous scenery here.

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But convincing Japan to turn its back on the somei-yoshino strain may not be easy.

Convincing Japan to change anything, or start something new is a hard row to hoe.

Good luck to the guy.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The only cherry blossom tree on our street is mine.

I haven't the slightest idea what variety it is and it is a bonsai!

My neighbour passed away last year and his daughter was throwing tons of stuff in the garbage including this bonsai so I asked if I could have it, she said yes!

I got help from a friend but it needs a lot of attention so I am going to take classes if that doesn't help I will give it to a friend's father who raises bonsai.

Only got about 1/3 the blossoms my late neighbour would get, so not sure what I did wrong.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Here's a radical idea - plant cherry trees which produce cherries! It would go a little way to help Japan's dismal food self-sufficiency rate.

Also cut down all the Sugi which have destroyed the forest ecosystems and in their place plant native mixed broad-leaf species - including the now rare wild cherry.

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