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The Japanese cherry blossom festival of Hanami is celebrated across the entire country. People make picnics, sit underneath the trees and marvel at the flowers, and when the slightest of breeze comes along the air is filled with blossom confetti. The good thing is that you don’t need a huge garden to enjoy blossom. You can even enjoy this wonder of nature with a small tree on your balcony, patio or terrace.
Many flowering cherries are indigenous to Japan, but there are shrubs and trees of different shapes and sizes that you can grow in your outdoor space.
If you’re tight on space, then look for columnar trees. These grow upwards and are not very wide. Alternatively, there are many dwarf varieties of garden favourites.
Magnolias are stunning trees, especially when in flower. Magnolia stellata is a compact bush that produces hundreds of stunning, bright white, slightly scented star-shaped flowers that open from silky buds and flower early March to April.
You can even grow this bush in a large pot. It will only get to 2m x 2m in 20 years and can grow in sun or part shade.
Crab apples come in many shapes and sizes and in addition to the blossom have gorgeous, coloured fruits ranging from white to deep red.
Malus x purpurea ‘Neville Copeman’ has pink-purple blossom, which is loved by pollinators.
The leaves also have a hint of purple and in the autumn the tree is covered with large orange-red crab apples that are perfect in jams, jellies and chutneys.
For pure white blossom why not try Malus brevipes ‘Wedding Bouquet’ or Malus ‘Sutyzam’ (‘Sugar Tyme’)?
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For a smaller variety try Malus toringo ‘Aros’ with pink-purple blossom with a white eye, purple foliage and dark red crab apples.
If you’re looking for a flowering shrub/tree with deep magenta to lilac purple pea-like blooms on bare wood (i.e. before the leaves come out) then Cercis chinensis ‘Avondale’ or the Chinese Redbud is an absolute must.
Flowering in March and April it only gets to 2.5m x 2.5m in 20 years and will thrive in most soils, including dry and chalky soils, and is reasonably drought tolerant once established.
For more blossom this is best grown in full sun. It also has the RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM).
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We normally associate May with the Mayflower, otherwise known as Hawthorn with white blossom with pink anthers. But Crataegus laevigata ‘Crimson Cloud’ has single, pink-red flowers with white centres and has the RHS AGM.
This vibrant blossom covers the tree in early summer, but just be warned, it does have sharp thorns on its branches; however, wildlife loves Hawthorn, and it will cope with exposed, coastal, damp and polluted areas. This will get to 5m x 4m in 20 years.
In June and July dense cones of golden yellow, pea-like flowers of Cytisus battandieri ‘Yellow Tail’ or the Pineapple broom tree are held in dense plumes, which bees, butterflies and other beneficial pollinators love.
I have this in my garden and the delicious scent of pineapples is just wonderful. This too has the RHS AGM and is more compact than the species plant.
There are many flowering cherries but my top three for smaller gardens are: Prunus ‘Kiku-shidare-zakura’ or the Cheals Weeping Cherry with large pink, double flowers; Prunus incisa ‘Mikinori’ with semi-double pale pink flowers that turn white with a pink central eye; and Prunus ‘Okame’ with pink, candyfloss, small flowers.
The list, of course, goes on with red, orange and yellow Witch hazels, white, pink or purple Lilac trees and gorgeous Dogwoods.
Then there’s the blossom on plum, peach, pear and apricot trees, white and pink Viburnums and the rich blue flowers of Ceanothus ‘Trewithen Blue’.
Add Sorbus, Amelanchier, Sambucus nigra, Cornus mas with bright yellow blossom and Exochorda x macrantha ‘The Bride’ with masses of white blossom, and you can fill your garden with months of colour and interest.
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