Yesterday’s news – ‘Whitcomb blossoms’

March 5, 2023. The snow is mostly gone. ‘Whitcomb’ blossoms in the West End still look good. This cultivar does not seem to be open yet anywhere else in the city. Perhaps that will mean a shorter but more colourful display when the flowers all open at once.

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

Photos Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival

The Indicator Tree

Many cherry blossom festivals have selected a special tree to serve as an “index tree” (Tokyo) or “indicator tree” (Washington D.C.) When over 70% of its flowers are in bloom, they declare that cherry trees are officially in bloom in the city.

The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival does not have an official indicator tree so, for the purpose of the First International Cherry Blossom Prediction Competition, the Akebono trees in Maple Grove Park, at the corner of SW Marine Drive and Yew Street, were designated as the Vancouver location. In a way, these trees will serve as our first indicator trees.

Douglas Justice is monitoring the trees and will declare their official blooming date. Stay tuned for the big reveal.

Photo: Douglas Justice.
Photos Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival

Sakura Days Japan Fair

There was so much to experience at Sakura Days Japan Fair: performances on the cherry stage, activities in the Experience Japan and haiku tents, vendors kiosks, food stands and, of course, cherry blossoms!

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Join us for more cherry blossom fun — such as Bike the Blossoms, haiku workshop, cherry walk, Big Sing, and more. Details on our community events page.

Cherry Jam Photos Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival

Festival kicks off with concert under blossoms

The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival kicked off today with Cherry Jam, a noon-hour concert at downtown’s Burrard SkyTrain station featuring memorable performances.

After a word from the festival’s creative director Linda Poole, Zimbamoto took the stage with contemporary African music.


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Katari Taiko featured a battle of taiko drums.


Sporting pink socks, the newest member of the festival’s executive team presented the Ornamental Cherries in Vancouver and introduced the next performers, NoriNori. The duo performed an energetic rendition of Sakura Sakura on the shamisen and taiko.

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MNGWA surprised the audience by starting with a very lively adaptation of The Simpsons TV show.


On the concourse, vendors were providing information and tea samples.

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And, of course, the blossoms were there.  The green leaves had started to come out, which means the petals were falling gently on the crowd who was gathered to admire the blossoms.  This was a perfect beginning, considering the  the theme of this year’s festival is ‘Petal by Petal’.

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Check the festival’s community events page which list tons of activities to enjoy the blossoms such as a Big Picnic, Sakura Days Japan Fair, Bike the Blossoms, a haiku contest, and more!

Happy cherry blossom viewing!


Photos Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival

Spring Lights Illumination

It was a magical evening as Hfour illuminated Queen Elizabeth Park cherry trees for Spring Lights Illumination. Lights were projected on the canopy, lanterns were glowing, and giant mirror balls reflected the blossoms.

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Interpretative dancers performed under the lit up trees. A walkthrough experience allowed visitors to move from under the canopy to various pathways.

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The pathways lead you back to the canopy where you could enjoy more illuminations.

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Thank you for joining us.

Check the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival website to see more information about events and activities.

Photos Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival

Blossom Barge

It was an exciting day as the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival’s Blossom Barge traveled up False Creek and moored at Granville Island Public Market for two days of performances.

People arriving at Granville Island were greeted by the Festival banner under the Burrard Bridge.


The barge (presented by Tymac Launch Service) was moored at the Granville Island market courtyard at dock 7.

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On board the Blossom Barge were 40 cherry trees that will later be planted in a Vancouver park.

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Festival director Linda Poole was dressed for the occasion.

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Saturday’s performances included: Tetsu Taiko & Tzo’kam collaboration, Langley Ukulele Ensemble, Kutapira, and the international yoyo superstar – Harrison Lee.

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People tended to gather at the front of the dock, but music could be heard from anywhere in the market courtyard and the stage is visible from all the side docks, so there’s plenty of places to sit and enjoy the show while you eat delicious food from the market.


In the parking  lot, the 10th anniversary Blossom Car, driven by festival director Linda Poole, was turning heads.

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Join us again on Sunday April 17 for another day of performances and the final send-off as a flotilla will travel up False Creek.


Photos Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival

Sakura Illumination

Sakura Illumination took place in Stanley Park, at the Japanese Memorial, on the evening of April 1 2016. This activity  presented by HFour Design – one of the highlights of the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival – was attended by over 3,000 people.

I arrived at the Japanese Memorial around 7.30pm and there was already close to 1,000 people on the site.

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People were sitting on blankets, waiting for the sun to come down and the lanterns to turn on.

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Around 8.00 p.m., the generators kicked in and the lanterns were lit.  The excitement was palpable in the audience.

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Waiting for the night to fall, I visited the Japanese memorial where the Ojichin was beautifully lit.

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Around 9pm, it was night time. Two dozens lanterns were hanging in the Shirotae cherry trees. Some were on low branches so you could have your picture taken with them. There were also Japanese umbrellas with flashing led lights.

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The fully bloomed Shirotae cherry trees were lit up with different colour lights with spotlights. And there was a live projection of moving images on the tree canopy accompanied by music.  It was a beautiful evening.

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Walking back on the seawall, I enjoyed this amazing view of Vancouver skyline.


A few minutes after I had taken this photo,  hundreds of cyclists – dressed in costumes, their bikes adorned with lights – passed on seawall chanting: “Vancouver Bike Train!” The line of cyclists went on for at least 20 minutes and was quite entertaining to watch.

This fun cycling event reminded me of our upcoming Bike the Blossoms event with Velopalooza on April 9. Join the fun!

Photos: Jessica Tremblay

Cherry Jam Merchandise Photos Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival

Cherry Jam concert at Burrard skytrain

The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival kicked off today with the Cherry Jam, a free concert held at the Burrard skytrain station in downtown Vancouver.

This year, several artists teamed up to offer a multidisciplinary experience: The Vancouver Metropolitan Orchestra performed first, then stayed on stage to accompany two dancers and a Japanese singer.

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Chinese musician Ji Rong Huang played the er-hu while Dayna Szyndrowski performed tap dancing. I was blown away that someone had thought of mixing these two different art forms together. And they worked perfectly!


Japanese artist Yayoi Hirano from Yayoi Theatre Movement performed haiku in mime while accompanied by the flute music of Holly Burke. (No pictures, but I took a video.)

Vancouver Okinawa Taiko group closed the show with powerful drumming and dancing.

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All performances were wonderful and memorable!

Festival volunteers at the VCBF table were handing out the 2016 Cherry Blossom guide which you can also find in this week’s The Vancouver Courier Newspaper and WE | The Westender.

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Spring came early, so all cherry blossom were gone at the Burrard skytrain station, but there was a birthday blossom tree at one of the kiosks, so I was able to take pictures of the blossoms.


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Akebono cherry trees are losing their petals, but there are plenty of cherry blossoms elsewhere in the city: Shirotae, beni-shidare, and soon Kanzan will bloom.  Are you ready to celebrate spring?

Don’t go cherry blossom viewing without these essential items: the VCBF guide, a cherry petal mat and a guide to Ornamental Cherries in Vancouver.


Happy Cherry Blossom Viewing!


Fall into Cherry Blossom Dreams


In today’s overdriven society the notion of a regular, peaceful sleep can seem like a distant concept. However, having enough sleep is important as it impacts our mood, ability to make choices and focus. In addition to these short term consequences, there are a variety of long term chronic conditions that a lack of sleep are linked to, these include: type two diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. A lack of sleep also impacts our productivity in the workplace, it impacts our “concentration, working memory, mathematical capacity, and logical reasoning” (Harvard Medical School). This is why the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival brings to you Blossomtime: Guided Imagery and Music for Relaxation and Sleep.

Inspired by the peaceful and tranquil environment created by the cherry blossom the Blossomtime relaxation and sleep tape provides listeners with 43 minutes of soothing and melodic vocals accompanied with instrumental music. Blossomtime triggers deep sleep by using the soothing, beautiful imagery of cherry blossoms. It can also assist in helping the body heal by activating deep relaxation when the body can rejuvenate. After using the tape a few times, Blossomtime will elicit the sleep response and you will automatically drift off to sleep time.

VCBF Executive Director, Linda Poole loves to go to her favourite place amongst cherry blossoms with Blossomtime to take time out from blossom busyness, relax and recharge.

Background Behind the tape:

Lis Smith, social worker and clinical hypnotherapist. Lis has had years of experience in using imagery to instill relaxation in patients. Lis’ inspiration behind creating a cherry blossom inspired meditation tape was initiated by her time as clinical hypnotherapist, she would often encourage her patients to relax under the soothing presence of a cherry blossom tree.

Laurel Murphy is a singer and sound practitioner. She has extensive experience in creating music for relaxation programs. In an interview with Laurel she noted that she has “seen the effectiveness in combining spoken word with music for instilling relaxation”. Laurel was inspired to create the Blossomtime tape as “falling cherry Blossoms are an effective guided meditation tool”.

Blossomtime can be purchased at Banyen Books and the Garden Shop at VanDusen Botanical Garden

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