Recently, many gardening events have been cancelled and a number of public parks and outdoor spaces have closed due to the coronavirus outbreak; but, there is one thing the disease cannot stop – nature and the great British blossom show.
Across the country, stunning displays from cherry trees, plum trees, apple trees and hawthorn are still blooming and sure to put a smile on people’s faces.
Over the next couple of months, members of the public can enjoy viewing trees in full flower all without having to leave home or come into contact with others. If you do leave the home for your daily social distancing exercise, they can be seen in parks, churchyards and people’s gardens.
Presenter of The Beechgrove Garden TV series and herbaceous supervisor for Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE), Kirsty Wilson says: ‘With social gathering restrictions in place and gardens, including our own, currently closed to the public, the good news is that there are delightful displays of blossom to be seen in the countryside and in towns and cities around Britain; the sight of blossom after a long winter is truly magical.
‘Connections with nature are linked to happiness, so make sure you spend some time outside each day and enjoying the beauty of plants. From open landscapes to tiny plots or window boxes, plants are good for our health. Wherever you can see them, particularly in these uncertain times, take time to enjoy the colour they bring to our lives.’
Picturesque blossom trees include the Malus sylvestris crab apple, Prunus persica peach tree, Crataegus monogyna hawthorn tree, Prunus serrulata ‘Pink Perfection’ cherry tree, Prunus serrulata ‘Shirotae’ cherry tree and the Pyrus communis pear tree.
Beginning in late-February, blossom trees usually pick up pace in March and can be in full flower throughout April and May.
Kirsty explains a century-old Japanese tradition is what makes blossom trees unique.
‘Blossom trees originated in Eurasia before migrating to Japan,’ she claims, ‘in Japan, it is a tradition to picnic under a blossom tree. This act is called ‘hanami,’ which translates as flower viewing.’
Kirsty’s personal favourite is the hybrid cherryPrunus x yedoensis due to its spectacular display. It is now one of the most widely cultivated flowering cherries in temperate climates and stands near the East Gate of the RBGE.
Cherry trees have a short lifespan, typically, only lasting about 16-20 years. However, black cherry trees can live up to 250 years. Referred to as ‘sakura’ in Japanese, these pale blooms symbolise spring as it is a time of renewal.
While Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh’s four gardens, Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Wisley garden in Surrey and certain National Trust sites are usually the best places to see blossom trees in peak bloom, a number of them are now closed to restrict the spread of coronavirus. The National Trust’s countryside and coastal locations remain open. However, the charity is encouraging people to stay local and observe social distancing.
Alternatively, Kirsty recommends following RBGE’s virtual spring on Instagram @rbgedinburgh and Twitter @TheBotanics or planting a blossom tree in your own garden.
‘Now is a great time to support small tree nurseries!’ she adds.
You can also test your tree flower knowledge with the Woodland Trust’s quiz or identify British trees using their Tree ID app.
Tips for bringing blossom trees into your garden
- Planting is best done between October and April.
- Avoid planting in waterlogged (water sitting on the soil surface) or frozen (too difficult to get the spade in) soil.
- Improve the structure of heavy or sandy soils by integrating organic matter.
- Drought stress can be common with newly planted trees and shrubs, even during a cool, wet summer. Watering aids such as irrigation tubes can assist this.
- However, be careful as overwatering is possible which leads to rotting roots. If unsure, dig with to the side of the root ball to determine whether the soil is beginning to dry before watering.
- Maintain a vegetation-free circle of at least 1.2m (4ft) in diameter around the plant for its first three years to avoid weeds and other vegetation intercepting water before it reaches the roots.
- Fertilisers aren’t required at the time of planting, but can be used a season after planting if the soil is very poor or to boost growth if necessary.
Follow RHS’ guide to planting trees.