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Cherry Trees

Cherry Trees

Cherry trees in blossom herald the beginning of spring, not only in New Zealand but in many parts of the world. In Japan there is a believable legend that each spring a fairy maiden hovers low in the warm sky, wakening the sleeping Cherry trees to life with her delicate breath.

We can divide the cherry family 'Prunus' into cherry trees grown for their fruit and those that are grown for their ornamental value, especially the spring flowering. The later is often referred to as flowering cherries and it is these that make the really spectacular displays in spring.

For instance in Japan the cherry blossom (sakura) is noted as Japan's unofficial national flower. It has been celebrated for many centuries and takes a very prominent position in Japanese culture.

There are many dozens of different cherry tree varieties in Japan, most of which bloom for just a couple of days in spring. The Japanese celebrate that time of the year with hanami (cherry blossom viewing) with parties under the blooming trees.

Many gardeners love to have a flowering cherry tree as a focal point in their gardens and now is an excellent time to purchase a new season's specimen from your local garden centre.

Flowering cherry trees are available in several forms, upright columns, spreaders, weepers, etc as well as the fruiting varieties.

The key to successful growing of a cherry tree is a good free draining situation as they cannot handle wet feet. Many a cherry tree has been lost in a wet winter when the roots have been submerged in wet soil, for too long a period. Interestingly the tree actually dies in winter while dormant, with much of the roots rotting away, but in spring there is a sufficient sap store to rise and produce one last display of blossoms. Some leaves will then form but having too little root left they fall and the tree is no more than firewood. Because of our climate change it is more important than ever to ensure that your cherry tree will be able to survive a wet winter. The easy way to achieve this when planting out is to make a mound 30 to 40 cm tall and plant your new tree into this mound with suitable staking.

The mound should comprise of friable soil and sand mix with a little compost added.

Cherry trees are not great feeders and a few handfuls of sheep manure pellets a couple of times a year along with a scoop or two of Fruit and Flower Power should do just nicely.

For those that have an existing cherry tree and are concerned about losing it to wet feet, can do two things to reduce this possibility. Just beyond the drip line dig a trench about a spade's depth, this allows the water from the wet soil to drain into the trench, which will evaporate quicker with sun and wind, making for a drier area around the roots. A couple of sprays over the foliage in autumn and repeated when the foliage is out in the spring, with Perkfection, will assist the cherry tree to overcome those wet weather diseases such as root rot.

Cherry slugs are likely to damage the foliage in the summer time as they feed on the leaves. Simple to control with one or two sprays of Liquid Copper, as the pest, like ordinary slugs cannot handle copper.

Follow the above and you will have a wonderful display of cherry blossoms for many springs to come.

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