There was a good attendance to hear Douglas Justice, Assistant Director and curator of collections at the UBC Botanical Garden to speak about ornamental cherry trees in Vancouver. He was introduced by Diana Mason. Douglas has training and expertise in both tropical plants and general horticulture. He has been instrumental in the founding and promoting of the Vancouver Cherry Festival which takes place in April. He was asked to be involved by Linda Poole, wife of the Canadian ambassador to Japan and our festival is modeled on the one in Japan. One major difference is that the Japanese like to visit trees when the blossom is just falling whilst we like to see the trees when they are in full bloom. During the Second World War the Kamikaze pilots had images of falling cherry petals on their planes. The festival organization has ‘cherry scouts’ to help spot particularly beautiful trees. More information can be found on the website by looking at ‘Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival 2020’.
Doug showed images of a range of trees and pointed out the differences between plums and cherries although at first glance they can look quite alike. Plums are twiggier and the branches cross. Each cherry blossom has a separate stem on a single terminal. Apples are also quite different. Cherry trees began to be planted in Vancouver in the 1930ies when the mayor of Okinawa sent trees to Vancouver. In Stanley Park there is a Japanese memorial complete with cherry tree. There are also lovely cherry trees in the Nitobe gardens at UBC. Akebono is the most commonly planted variety in Vancouver, but we were shown examples of other lovely trees. Some of the advantages and disadvantages of these were pointed out. Kwanzan is the most popular tree worldwide because the blossom will last up to three weeks if it is not too hot. Douglas discussed diseases of cherry trees and pointed out that they were very prone to bacterial cancers. This is partly because of the way they are grown in North America. They are usually top grafted which is fast but does not produce a strong tree. A typical cherry tree in Vancouver will have a number of branches coming out from a single trunk. The trunk is often quite diseased, but the tree will survive. Cherry trees are also prone to brown rot. At UBC trees are being grown by methods which are slower but produce a stronger tree. They are also propagating rare varieties by use of cuttings. This is done by micro-propagating in flasks and a group of BCIT students are working on this. In Japan the trees are grown on their own roots which is the most desirable but also slow. There are some growing conditions which produce a stronger tree such as a higher ph. in the soil and a course textured soil. Mowing equipment can easily damage trees and they are better with a circle of open soil around them. The ground should not be compacted. Unnecessary pruning is undesirable and trees should not be overcrowded. Budded trees are superior to top grafted trees. Douglas closed with the saying ‘There is no stranger under a cherry tree’.