There is no more spectacular harbinger of spring than an ornamental cherry tree bursting into bloom. After a winter of bare branches come clouds of fluffy, pastel blossoms. Some produce fruits that attract birds to the garden, and many also have good autumn color to end the year with a bang.
When to plant: Late autumn.
At their best: Spring.
Time to complete: 2 hours.
You will need: Cherry tree, stake, tree tie, spade.
Choose a site
Ornamental cherries grow best in fertile, moist but well-drained soil, in full sun, although they tolerate partial shade and a drier soil once they are established. Make sure there is ample room for the tree to grow because some mature into large trees.
Planting and staking
Dig a hole the same depth as the rootball and twice as wide. Plant the tree so that its rootball is slightly proud of the surrounding soil surface. Hammer in a stake angled into the prevailing wind. Attach it to the tree using a flexible, adjustable tree tie.
Water the tree thoroughly after planting, and apply a mulch, keeping it away from the trunk. Water for the first two years. Check the tie often, and loosen it if need be. In a couple of years, you can remove the stake because the tree will be fully established.
Cherry trees come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors to suit all gardens. Prunus ‘Spire’ has a slender, upright habit, ideal for smaller gardens. P. x subhirtella and P. incisa are both compact trees with pale pink flowers and attractive autumnal color. P. ‘Shizuka’ is medium-sized, and has large, scented, white semi-double flowers.
If you choose the right-sized cherry for your garden, the only pruning required will be to remove dead, diseased, or damaged growth. If you need to shape your tree, do so after flowering in early summer, because there are fewer diseases then, and you will not remove the flower buds.