Flowering cherries

Prunus ‘Accolade’ on the edge of the glasshouse landscape at RHS Wisley

Grown for their graceful form, life-affirming early spring blossom and electrifying autumn colour, flowering cherries are some of the most loved trees. Their rich history of cultivation and celebration in Japanese culture brings great depth to their story. The mass planting of cherries as street trees throughout modern British housing developments over the past four or five decades surely contributes to the firm connection many people feel with these magnificent trees. I explored the RHS Wisley collection of flowering cherries in late March and early April, from huge wild trees to miniature cultivars.

Prunus avium

Before we get stuck into the wonderful world of exotic ornamental flowering cherries, one of our native wild cherries must first get a mention. This fast-growing tree springs up in our native woodlands, hedgerows and verges, but it can be found across Europe, western Asia and even north Africa. A small isolated population is even found in the western Himalaya.  Most cultivars below are produced by grafting a side branch, often causing them to lean and arch gracefully. If grown in the open, Prunus avium has a clear straight central trunk, with a very satisfying cone-shaped symmetrical crown. Their branch structure and steely bark alone will hold your gaze on a bright winters day.

Prunus avium


Prunus ‘The Bride’ (AGM)

Dense and spreading habit, relatively small for a flowering cherry. Pure white flowers with deep red stamens, in April.

A half-standard form of Prunus ‘The Bride’, but also commonly available as a multi-stem.


Prunus ‘Accolade’ (AGM)

In late March through to early April, semi-double mid-pink flowers adorn this relatively small spreading tree. ‘Accolade’ is a cross between P. sargentii and P x subhirtella.

‘Accolade’ surrounded by Colchicum foliage, who’s crocus-like flowers shine later in the year, beneath the blaze of autumn colour cherries are famous for.
Rich pink buds opening to mid-pink blossom; Prunus ‘Accolade’


Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’ (AGM)

A deservedly popular small and slow-growing variety of this shrubby small-leaved species, flowering freely in March. Often available in garden centres as miniature standard (single stem) aimed at pot displays and rockeries. Also available as a larger upright form, with distinctive zig-zag stems.

Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’


Prunus incisa f. yamadei (AGM)

A wild form discovered near Mount Fiji in 1916, with pure white flowers lacking any pink colouration even in bud. The many small flowers give this cherry a distinctly wild look compared to larger-flowered cultivars.

Clouds of small white flowers adorn Prunus incisa f. yamadei


Prunus pendula var. ascendens ‘Rosea’

One of the earliest flowering of the spring cherries. This variety is a relatively small tree in the UK, seen much larger in Japan.

Lime green inflorescences of Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii zinging beneath the blossom of Prunus pendula var. ascendens ‘Rosea’.


Prunus pendula ‘Pendula Rosea’

A small dome-shaped weeping tree, with leaves turning orange through to striking red in autumn. Available top-grafted at a wide range of heights.

Prunus pendula ‘Pendula Rosea’ top-grafted onto a shorter stem to form a miniature specimen.


Prunus x juddii

A cross between P. sargentii and P x yedoensis, originating at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston, USA in 1914. Pale pink flowers in spring are followed by rich deep red leaves in autumn.

Minty green lichen-covered branches carry clouds of blossom; Prunus x juddii in the grass garden at RHS Wisley.


Prunus x yedoensis (AGM)

The Yoshino cherry. A stunning small to medium sized tree, introduced from Japan around 1902. Arching branches bear a profusion of blush-white almond-scented flowers, from late March to early April. This is a hybrid cherry unknown in the wild. It is the product of a cross between P. speciosa and P. x subhirtella, which itself is a cross between P. incisa and P. pendula

Blush-white blossom of Prunus x yedoensis


Prunus × yedoensis ‘Moerheimii’ 

A pendulous shrubby tree, often as a weeping form if top-grafted. Characterful wide spreading dome habit. Pink buds open to form blush-white flowers in late March to early April, with foliage turning deep gold and crimson in autumn. This variety is sometimes allocated to P. incisa.

Prunus × yedoensis ‘Moerheimii’ on the RHS Wisley rock garden


Prunus ‘Snow Showers’

Fully weeping, with single white flowers in late March through to early April. Particularly good autumn colour.

Prunus ‘Snow Showers’

While here we have explored earlier-flowering cherries that have mostly now all faded, many more are soon to break bud. Mid-May generally marks the end of spring cherry blossom season until autumn-flowering cherries start to sparkle in the later end of the year.

Spring bulbs glowing on a spring evening around a miniature Prunus pendula ‘Pendula Rosea’ on the Wisley rock garden.
All photos taken by Owen Hayman between late March and early April, 2021.