While the brevity of its glory must be recognized, cherries really are the hardy spring flowering trees for temperate gardens. I can't think of anyone else apart from their close relatives of Prunus and some of the magnolias that even come close to rivaling cherry blossoms for the weight of flowering and the vibrancy of color.

The genus Prunus, to which cherries, plums, almonds, apricots and peaches belong, includes around 430 species distributed throughout much of the northern temperate regions and has a foothold in South America. Although it includes some evergreen species, such as the well-known cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus), the genus is mainly deciduous and generally resistant to frost that can occur in most New Zealand gardens.

The genus Prunus is widely recognized as divided into 5 or 6 subgenres, although some botanists prefer to recognize them as distinct genera. The subgenus cerasus is the one to which cherries belong. This group includes a wide variety of species, many of which are not very ornamental. The species that are of most interest to gardeners are Chinese and Japanese cherries, not only because they tend to be the most attractive, but also because they tend to be reasonably compact, often having attractive fall foliage, as well as spring flowers and because centuries of development in oriental gardens have produced innumerable beautiful varieties.

The Japanese recognize two main groups of cherry blossoms: the mountain or yamazakura cherries and the temple or garden cherries, the satozakura. Mountain cherries, which tend to have simple flowers, are largely derived from the original mountain cherry (Prunus serrulata var. Spontanea), Prunus subhirtella and Prunus incisa. They are grown primarily for their early flowering habit, which is just as well because their rather delicate display would be overwhelmed by the extravagance of the garden cherries.

Garden cherries are the result of a lot of hybridization, mostly unprinted, so we can't be exactly sure of their origins. Prunus serrulata (in its lowland form) and Prunus subhirtella also appear largely in its background. The other main influences are Prunus sargentii, Prunus speciosa, Prunus apetala and possibly the extensive bird cherries (Prunus avium and Prunus padus). The result of these ancient hybrids and modern developments is the wealth of forms that bloom in our gardens every spring.

Sadly, that complex kinship and those centuries of development and countless cultivars combined with western misunderstandings of Japanese names and multiple introductions of the same plants under different names have led to considerable confusion with the names of cherry blossoms. https://www.prfloral.com/

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