In Japan the blooming of the cherry trees is a nationwide event called “hanami,” or “flower viewing.” It marks the beginning of spring, serving, too, as a metaphor for beauty and transience. Hordes of people stream through the public parks and gardens, picknicking and celebrating with friends under canopies of pink and white blossoms.
The Asian ornamental cherry (Prunus) is beloved here, too, as a landscape element for a widely visible spot. Flowering cherry cultivars like Prunus serrulata ‘Kanzan’ start out with a funnel-shaped growth habit and can reach almost 30 feet. With its full, lush flowers, it’s particularly decorative. From April onwards gardeners can celebrate their own flower festivals beneath its corona.
Even if you only have a small, urban garden, that’s no reason to scratch cherries from your list. The wide variety of cultivars means it’s possible to find an ornamental cherry for the most diverse spots. Best for small areas is the slender flagpole cherry (Prunus serrulata ‘Amanogawa’).
Of course, if you’re seeking to surround your home with majestic pink and white blooms, there are many more exemplars that’ll oblige. One is the flowering almond (Prunus triloba), which is no less gorgeous than the ornamental cherry, but stays smaller. They’re available as shrubs or standard varieties and grow to 4-8 feet tall.
Relatively little known redbud trees (Cercis) grow as large shrubs or small trees and are adorned with attractive, orchid-like pink blossoms early in the growing season. They also offer a botanical peculiarity: flowers that also emerge from the trunk itself. Just like the flowering almond, the redbud does best in a warm, sheltered spot.
A real highlight in spring is the saucer magnolia, a designer’s favorite. The tree can grow up to 27 feet, often with a broadly sweeping crown, so it’s usually planted alone as an accent that can grow unhampered and be admired from all angles. Its countless large, pink-white flowers grow on upright stems and are supported by two silken-furred brachts.
By contrast, the white, star-shaped blossoms of shadbush or serviceberry (Amelanchier) are relatively delicate. Yet they appear in April in large numbers. Two appealing varieties for the home garden are the smooth shadbush (Amelanchier laevis), which grows 9 to 15 feet tall, and the slightly larger snowy mespilus (Amelanchier lamarckii).