The flowering cherry tree has been cultivated in Japan for over a thousand years. It is a standard feature of Japanese temple gardens and has gained increasing popularity in American landscaping because of its beauty and hardiness. In Japanese, this tree is called "shidare zakura," meaning "weeping cherry"--a name that physically describes the tree's drooping branches and evokes both the joy and sadness associated with cherry blossoms in Japanese culture. Cherry blossoms are thought to symbolize life on earth: joyful and beautiful in its occurrence but sad in its transience.
In 1906, U.S. Department of Agriculture's David Fairchild imported 100 cherry trees from Japan, including 25 Japanese weeping cherries. He planted them on his property near Washington D.C. to test their reaction to the climate. The trees proved hardy and grew successfully. He began to promote the trees throughout the nation's capital, and the tree's popularity and presence in the United States has grown ever since.
The weeping cherry tree's branches fall gracefully from the tree trunk. They bloom for a few weeks in the spring. Most varieties produce pink blossoms that turn white before falling off. The Japanese weeping cherry tree is ornamental; it does not produce any cherry fruit.
When planting a Japanese weeping cherry tree, it is important to consider its final size. Otherwise, the tree may interfere with other plants, your home, or even your septic tank. To avoid this situation, research your tree's variety. Several weeping cherry trees can grow to a circumference of 20-30 feet, and most reach 20 feet tall.
Susceptible to root-rot, the soil around a Japanese weeping cherry tree should be kept well drained. When planting, layer the bottom of the hole with some sand and pebbles to help with drainage. The tree grows best in USDA zones 5 through 9, as long as there is ample sunlight. Fertilize the tree in early spring every year, and prune in late summer. Before pruning, seek expert advice to avoid overpruning.
The Snow Fountain weeping cherry tree, a dwarf variety, is popular in the U.S. It has white flowers and works well in small landscapes. Other varieties include Prunus Amagi yoshino, whose top branches are upright and bottom are weeping, and Prunus pendula, which blooms pale pink in early spring.
- "Creating a Japanese Garden"; Peter Chan; 2003
- National Park Service: History of the Cherry Trees
- "Complete Trees, Shrubs, and Hedges"; Jacqueline Heriteau; 2005
- "New York Gardener's Guide"; Ralph Snodsmith; 2001
- "Garden Plants of Japan"; Ran Levy-Yamamori; 2004
- Photo Credit flowered cherry-tree image by Kryuchkov Alexey from Fotolia.com
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