February 14, 2023. Most of our winter-blooming cherries are doing nothing right now, except for this group of four on Pacific Street east of Jervis in the West End, which look better than they ever have. Thanks to Shirley Willard being excited enough to send along these photos.
Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival 2022
This looks to be a good year for cherries, and despite (or maybe because of) the cold winter weather, blossoming is predicted to be about a week early—though at UBC Botanical Garden, being on the tip of (cool) Point Grey means being at least a week behind the rest of Vancouver. On the UBC Vancouver campus, ‘Somei-yoshino’ (Tokyo cherry) and the similar ‘Akebono’ (daybreak cherry) are primed and ready to bloom in the last week of March or first week of April. Both are selections of P. ´ yedoensis. It’s definitely worth checking out the group of ‘Akebono’ on the southeast side of the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts and the ‘Somei-yoshino’ in the Nitobe Memorial Garden and the historic avenue along nearby Lower Mall. There are, of course, several other cherries on campus, especially in the Nitobe Garden (too many to mention here). It’s worth noting that replacement cherries in the Nitobe are now exclusively “own-root” cherries; that is, they are not grafted plants, so have a more natural manner of growth (we also believe that these plants are more disease resistant than grafted cherries). UBC Botanical Garden is producing own-root cherries at its campus nursery. This year, limited numbers of small plants, including some uncommon cultivars, will be available for sale at the Botanical Garden’s Shop in the Garden. The handbook Ornamental Cherries in Vancouver is also available there.
While at the Botanical Garden, don’t forget to check out the Wharton Cherry Grove, where the early-blooming, deep-pink-flowered Prunus itosakura ‘Whitcomb’ (these trees started opening their buds in February) has yet to reach its peak. Prunus ‘Accolade’, which usually closely follows ‘Whitcomb’, is set to open its vibrant light pink, semi-double flowers shortly. Similarly, the initially strongly upright ‘Umineko’ (seagull) has fattening buds and will start to open its white flowers as its green leaves begin to emerge. The white on green contrast is exceptional. More common in Vancouver than most people realize, the cultivar ‘Pandora’ also has an upright habit and usually follows ‘Umineko’ within a few days, but its flowers are looser and a lovely soft-pink. Both ‘Umineko’ and ‘Pandora’ are modern hybrids developed by the British ornithologist and cherry collector, Collingwood Ingram. There is a recent biography called ‘Cherry’ Ingram: The Englishman Who Saved Japan’s Blossoms, by Naoko Abe that is well worth reading (the U.S. title is Sakura Obsession). It is usually available in the Shop in the Garden.
Most of our later cherries are Sato-zakura (traditional Japanese “village cherries”), and the mid-season brings along the classic ‘Ukon’ (turmeric cherry) with its yellow-stained, semi-double white flowers. Outside the fence, parallel to Marine Drive west of the Garden’s entrance, is a line of the husky ‘Tai-haku’ (great white cherry) that should be opening their generous white flowers about the same time. Sometime after, look for the magnificent, cream and soft-pink, fully-double ‘Ito-kukuri’ (still a small tree, but impressive), and large-budded, white-flowered ‘Ojochin’ (large lantern cherry). Following these (or sometime coinciding with, depending on the weather) are the double soft-pink ‘Ichiyo’, and luscious-pink, single- and semi-double-flowered ‘Mikuruma-gaeshi’ (the royal carriage returns). Both are show-stopping Sato-zakura. A close ‘Ukon’ relative is ‘Gyoiko’. This Sato-zakura has unusual, green, white and purple-flushed flowers, which usually start to show later on in April. Perhaps any or all of these will whet your appetite for more of Vancouver’s cherries.
Don’t forget to join us for the Big Picnic, this year on April 2nd at David Lam Park, home to one hundred ‘Akebono’ cherries. The festivities, part of the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival’s Annual “Cherry Jam,” include a gala opening ceremony with performances by Vancouver’s three Host Nations—Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh—and a special tree dedication. ‘Akebono’ petals will be falling all around. Perfect.
Associate Director of Horticulture & Collections at UBC Botanical Garden
This year, due to COVID-19 outbreak, please stay home and let us bring the blossoms to you.
Click on this interactive map to see the most popular cherry trees at Queen Elizabeth Park.
Enjoy the Queen Elizabeth Park cherry trees online:
- Virtual Tree Walk – Queen Elizabeth Park *NEW*: Features photos of ‘Somei-yoshino’, ‘Akebono’, ‘Shirotae’ and ‘Umineko’ from previous years.
- Blossom Blog – Queen Elizabeth Park: enjoy these blog posts featuring ‘Umineko’, ‘Akebono’, ‘Stellata”, Big Picnic, and Sakura Illumination from our blog archives.
- VCBF Neighbourhood Map: zoom in Queen Elizabeth Park on West 33rd and Cambie to discover all the cherry trees in the park (or click the Search tab, then type Queen Elizabeth)
If you live in the area and will visit in person, please respect physical distancing. Cherry scout Lisa L. wrote on the UBC Botanical Garden forum:
“Please beware that this year due to social distancing there is NO vehicular access to QE park from any of the entrances. All are barricaded. You must walk in and up to admire this tree, and please not a lot of people or the park rangers may shut it down. The rangers are patrolling and ensuring that all of us walkers are keeping our distance and not congregating. So please follow the directives and visit discreetly and quietly. NO PICNICS. we will have to wait till next year for that.”
This visual timeline features the estimated blooming period for ten of the most common cultivars of cherry trees in Vancouver: Whitcomb, Beni-Shidare, Accolade, Akebono, Umineko / Snow Goose, Shirotae, Shirofugen, Kanzan, Kiku-shidare-zakura, Shogetsu.
Happy cherry blossom viewing!
(Click the image to expand the timeline)
Our cherry scout leader Wendy Cutler wrote that because of precautions regarding COVID-19, “all Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival 2020 community events that involve people getting together have been cancelled, and that includes the Tree Talks and Walks. This year, they will be Do-it-Yourself walks.” You’ll be able to go on your own cherry blossom adventure guided by instructions and photos provided on our website.
If you want to experience cherry blossoms digitally, check out the Blooming Now page. All the photos come from public forum postings by our Cherry Scouts. Wendy wrote, “We have had some stunning photos posted already – have a look at the threads at the top of that Neighbourhood Blogs forums page. Click the highest page number to see the recent postings.”
If you want to create your own cherry blossom viewing walk, Wendy suggests: “You can find the festival’s favourite locations on the Neighbourhood Map. The map opens with the favourites, defined as good photo-op locations.” They’re identified by red markers.
So, cherry blossom viewing is still happening in the city, just in a different format: either a do-it-yourself walk (taking care of maintaining social distancing) or a digital visit on our website or on social media.
Accolade cherry blossoms in Vancouver
Accolade is one of the first cherry trees to bloom in early March in Vancouver, Canada. It’s recognizable by its bright pink double flowers with up to twelve petals.
The most popular location to view Accolade cherry blossoms are
- Chilco Park
- Vancouver City Hall
Accolade cherry trees bloom in March and look great, especially against a blue sky, and will please photographers. Visit them in mid-March for peak bloom.
First, I visit the Accolade cherry trees at Chilco Park (Chilco/Comox). “Hey, the cherry blossoms are out!” said a man cycling by.
Tip: The Accolade blossoms are 70% in bloom. Visit this location within 10 days to enjoy peak blossom.
Then, I check on the Akebono cherry trees at Burrard skytrain station. Mostly buds, but the trees at the front (which are exposed to the sun) already have a few flowers.
Tip: It looks like the cherry blossoms will be fully open in 10 days. Visit around March 25 to experience peak bloom.
Whitcombs cherry blossoms at Ayshire and Aubrey in Burnaby are finally open. The trees are bloomed at 70%.
Tip: Visit within 7 days to catch peak bloom and 10-15 days to be showered in petals.
Wow! That was an exciting day of cherry scouting! At night, I sort through my photos. The next day, I post my findings on the UBC botanical garden forum.
Tip: Did you know you can see what’s blooming in your neighbourhood by visiting the UBC botanical garden forum? Click on your neighborhood and navigate to the last page to see what was posted recently.
Additional tip: Create a login and you’ll be able to subscribe to a thread to receive news of blooming trees in your neighbourhood.
If you’d like to learn how to identify cherry trees, visit the VCBF cherry scout page.
Six stages of cherry blossoms
Forty thousand cherry trees bloom in Vancouver in the spring. Find a cherry tree in your neighbourhood and watch as the buds develop into fully grown flowers in just a few weeks.
- Stage one: green round buds
- Stage two: florets visible
- Stage three: extension of florets
- Stage four: peduncle elongation
- Stage five: fluffy white petals
- Stage six: peak bloom
Since stage one can last a long time it’s when florets become visible at stage two that we can predict peak bloom is about 20 days away.
The photos feature the buds and blossoms of an Akebono cherry tree, but the stages of development are very similar for all cultivars of cherry blossoms.
It’s time to visit Autumnalis Rosea, our winter-blooming cherries. The tiny blossoms are starting to open.
At Georgia street, between Willingdon and Boundary, you’ll find two dozen Autumnalis Rosea cherry trees spread over eight blocks. Closer to Willingdon, every five trees is an Autumnalis Rosea, but when you reach MacDonald, there are more and more trees closer together, which means more blossoms!
If your keep walking towards Ingleton, the city of Vancouver appears at the end of the street.
During my visit, birds were playing in the trees. Occasionally, I was showered with blossoms.
Peak bloom. At this location, the flowers peak starting mid-January and should last 2 weeks. Visit on a sunny day for better pictures (Autumnalis Rosea cherry blossoms look great with a blue sky!).
Wanna visit later? You can expect to see Autumnalis Rosea at this location up till the beginning of April, but the leaves will be out (and Akebono on this street will be stealing the show).
You might also be interested in: Sunny photos of Autumnalis Rosea on Georgia street from January 28 2015.
Check the VCBF neighbourhood map to find Autumnalis Rosea cherry trees in your neighbourhood.
McSpaden Park is a great destination if you want to see Whitcomb cherry trees this week. You’ll find about ten trees planted along Victoria Drive. Part of the canopy hangs over the fence, offering a nice picnic spot.
Besides cherry blossom viewing, there are also plenty of options for outdoor sports and a playground for the little ones. When I arrived on a cloudy Saturday morning, the crows were occupying the soccer field, the tennis courts were busy, and a dog walker was sitting on a park bench enjoying the view.
Among the fallen flowers, I found a Whitcomb blossom with a petaloid. A petaloid is a small, unformed, sixth petal occasionally found on young flowers (such as Akebono). The petaloid usually falls off at an early stage, so you rarely see them. It was the first time I saw a petaloid on a Whitcomb flower. It was quite exciting… like finding a four-leaf clover.
The cherry petals will start falling soon, so visit your local Whitcomb cherry trees this week. Find them on the neighbourhood map.
Next: it’s almost time to see Accolade and Akebono flowers, so keep checking the Blog and Blooming Now page for more news. And don’t miss our Cherry Jam downtown concert under the beautiful canopy of Akebono trees at Burrard skytrain station on April 4nd.