Blossom

The blossom at Gravetye has been just beautiful this spring. It started at the end of February with Magnolia campbellii, putting on its flamboyant display to start the show. Soon follow the cherries, with new plantings of Prunus ‘The bride’ looking especially rewarding. These beautiful blossoms open pure white and fade to pink as the new leaves open. We planted 7 trees about two years ago and they are starting to look really good this spring. Soon they will make a cloud of blossom, connecting to the forested landscape beyond where wild blackthorn and bird cherry are flowering.

Because these blossom trees always seem to work best in groups we have planted quite a few specimens over the years, which are now looking rather handsome. One of the most striking is The Great White Japanese Cherry, Prunus ‘Tai Haku’, which we planted three years ago and is looking especially beautiful.

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This wonderful cherry with its enormous white flowers was once grown widely around the temples of Japan. After the Japanese reformation in the 1840’s it fell out of favour and by the 1920’s it was thought to have become extinct. But in 1926, a remarkable gardener and tree collector by the name of Colingwood Ingram made a trip to Japan to study his passion of cherries. He had collected plants from all over the world, which he grew in his garden in Benenden, Kent, and had visited Japan many times and developed a love for the country. On this trip he studied many of the ancient paintings of temple gardens to understand the cultural wealth of cherries in Japan. When he was shown a picture of the mythical Tai Haku, the lost flower of Japan, he immediately recognised it as a tree in his collection. The excitement it caused was immense and it took seven years work to repatriate the tree. Now it is one of the most highly prized of all the Japanese cherries and to see it flowering today at Gravetye gives me a special smile.

Tom.

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