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"Weak and puny" ... but welcome in winter.

"Weak and puny' . . . but welcome in winter

Like single-issue candidates, the flowering cherry known as Prunus subhirtella "Autumnalis' owes its popularity to one virtue, a blooming season that starts as the last autumn leaves are turning and continues in fits and starts through winter.

The milder the weather and the more sheltered the trees, the better the bloom. For this reason, "Autumnalis' cherry blossoms are safer west of the Sierra, though trees grow in all but the coldest areas east of the mountains.

Don't expect flowers as large or colorful as those on later-flowering cherries. As English horticulturist Hugh Johnson wrote about this 80-year-old variety, "One can forgive the flowers their weak color and puny size when they are the only ones in the garden.'

The two trees pictured above in a Tacoma, Washington, garden were planted bare-root in 1972. They've bloomed well every year since, peaking between Thanksgiving and Christmas but giving a final flush of bloom around the first of March. (In California's San Joaquin Valley, they may begin to bloom as early as November 1.) By 1981, they had reached 15 to 20 feet in height. If left unpruned, they will top out at about 25 to 30 feet.

A flattened-looking crown and loose branching habit are typical.

"Autumnalis' is available in nurseries this month bare-root; some container plants may be available also, with more to come in June. When you look for it, you may come across two confusingly similar cherries. P.s. "Autumnalis Rosea' is simply an "Autumnalis' with pink flowers. P.s. "Rosea' (also sold as P.s. "Whitcombii'), however, is a different cherry; it can flower as early as Christmas but does not have the flush of late-fall bloom that's so ingratiating in "Autumnalis.'

Photo: Borne on leafless stems in winter, semidouble whitish flowers have pink-to-crimson stamens

Photo: Entry gets summer shade, winter bloom from "Autumnalis' cherries
COPYRIGHT 1985 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:flowering cherries
Publication:Sunset
Date:Jan 1, 1985
Words:314
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