Cherry Scouts

Blossom Update: A Good Year for Cherries 

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.

Douglas Justice
Associate Director of Horticulture & Collections at UBC Botanical Garden

Cherry Scouts Photos

Whitcomb Cherry Trees Identification Guide (Infographic)

A helpful guide to identify Whitcomb cherry trees in Vancouver made into an infographic by cherry scout Jessica Tremblay.

The information comes from Ornamental Cherries in Vancouver, by Douglas Justice. Buy a copy to learn more about 54 cultivars of cherry trees in Vancouver and get ready for an awesome cherry blossom viewing season!

You might also like: How to tell the difference between cherry trees and plum trees (infographic)


Your guide to cherry blossoms in Vancouver



With the cherry blossoms season only one month away, it’s time to order your copy of Ornamental Cherries in Vancouver. This essential guide, written by Douglas Justice (Associate Director & Curator of Collections at UBC Botanical Garden) will help you identify the most popular cherry blossoms cultivars in Vancouver.

This 124-page third edition boasts:

  • An additional 19 cultivars, bringing the total to 54 different varieties of flowering cherry trees that can be found in Vancouver neighbourhoods
  • New Japanese index

If you love cherry blossoms or want to know more about them, you will enjoy this guide! It’s really easy to use (all cherry blossoms are listed by month of blooming), with beautiful photos that make identification really easy.

Our cherry scouts should definitely buy this new edition since it contains 19 new cultivars not included inthe 2nd edition.

Happy cherry blossom viewing!



Akebono Snow

Check out this Akebono cherry tree snowing petals on Douglas Justice during the tree talk and walk at UBC. Thanks to Wendy Cutler for sharing the video.

Photos Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival

Blossom Biology workshop


The Blossom Biology workshop took place at the VanDusen Botanical Garden classroom in the evening of April 11, 2013.

Douglas Justice, a technical advisor for the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival, came in with a bucket full of cherry blossoms that he had collected from the garden!

He started the session with a presentation during which we learnt about:

  1. Resources
  2. Cherry look-alike
  3. Photographing cultivars for ID purposes
  4. How to use the dichotomus key
  5. Important identification features
  6. Common cultivars

Blossom Biology with Justice Douglas (April 11, 2013)

Then, he laid out the various cultivars of cherry blossoms on the table and we got to see them up close and identify them.

Blossom Biology with Justice Douglas (April 11, 2013)

I’ve learnt a lot about cherry trees. Did you know that 80% of cherry trees are grafted? It’s a nursery practice to take a seedling cherry and to graft it to a stomp (from which many branches will grow). This explains the odd appearance of the trunk.

Blossom Biology with Justice Douglas (April 11, 2013)

Are you able to identify the different types of cherry blossoms in that bucket?

  • Tai Haku, aka Great White Cherry (top right, green leaves and big white flowers… up to 5 cm large!)
  • Beni-shidare, aka weeping cherry (at the very top, teeny tiny pink flowers, they’re the most common in the garden)
  • Yae-beni-shidare, aka double weeping cherry  (left side, branch of dark pink blossoms drooping)
  • Akebono
  • Japanese flowering cherries
  • Kiku-shidare-zakura, aka chrysanthemum cherry
  • and many more.

There are 35 cherries in the book Ornamental Cherries in Vancouver but Douglas Justice says they’ve identified 20 more cultivars since.  Aren’t we lucky to have so many cherry trees in Vancouver?

Tip: For more information about cherry tree identification and other things we’ve learnt at the workshop, type “Blossom Biology” in the search box on the left to view other posts on the subject.


Akebono Cherry Buds

Akebono cherry bud at Burrard skytrain station
March 8, 2013

Can you guess how many blossoms came out of that cherry bud?

Akebono cherry bud at Burrard skytrain station.
March 22, 2013

There were actually three Akebono cherry blossoms hidden inside that bud!

I’m not even sure what all the parts of a cherry blossom are called. I’ve registered to the cherry scout program to learn more about these beautiful trees. There will be a free workshop called Blossom Biology on April 11, 2013 offered by Douglas Justice.

Tree Talk (not a Walk) in the evening: Blossom Biology Workshop

  • April 11, 2013, Thursday, 7:30pm to 9pm
  • Classroom at VanDusen Botanical Garden, in the new building, end of hallway to the left
  • Presented by Douglas Justice, Associate Director and Curator of Collections, UBC Botanical Garden & Centre for Plant Research

Douglas brings the cherries to you! Learn how to identify our cherry cultivars. Registration is requested for this workshop, as seating is limited.

Register now.