When I was brainstorming gardening ideas with a client, I realized how most people don’t know much about Okame cherry trees. Most people only know them as an awesome plant that grows into a beautiful pink and white blossomed tree.
I managed to carry some online research and compile more facts you should know about these ornamental cherries. Here are some of its interesting facts:
It is Japan’s national flower
In 1912, the United States received 3000 cherry trees from Yukio Ozaki, the mayor of Tokyo at that time. The trees were for planting in the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC. As a token of appreciation, the United States gave Japan some flowering dogwoods in 1915.
The blossoms changes colors
If you have seen them up close, you may have noticed that most of them are dark pink when in bud. But then turn into a lighter pink when they first blossom. Then you would see finally see them turn pale pink or white.
However, there are variations, for example, the Ukon’s blossoms turn from a greenish yellow to white and then finally pink.
More petals than others
These Okami flowering trees naturally have five petals. Like the Yoshino, which is the most popular for its exquisitely fine and pleasing simple form. Then most cultivars are bred for many and fuller blossoms. Like the pink double blossoms of ‘Kanzan’, they can have as many as 28 petals each.
The Okame cherry tree was originally bred in England. In the early 20th century, noted cherry tree enthusiast by the name of Captain Collingwood Ingram experimented with this plant. He wanted to create a hybrid cherry tree plant that could tolerate winter cold.
The result was fantastic, a lovely but smaller than most types of cherry trees. He achieved this after fertilization of the female flower of a Fuji cherry with the pollen from a Taiwan cherry. The Fuji cherry as the P. Incisa and the Taiwan cherry is also known as the Prunus campanutula.
It inherited its cold-hardiness from the former. And its deep-pink flower color, heat tolerance, ability to bloom under low-chill conditions and flower early, from the latter.
Changes its form and height
When Okame cherry is young, you will notice an upright and vase-like shape when growing. When mature, it loses that shape and develops a tidy, oval or more rounded one. Then it grows to a height of 20 to 30 feet when fully mature. With its canopy spreading across an area of 12 to 20 feet maximum.
It is great size for a small yard. Just make sure to prune soon after its flowers fade.
Short flowering season
The Okame cherry flowering season is often regarded as the first among cherry trees. It is known to begin blooming while the others are still in their dominant stages. The flowering often starts during the subfreezing late winter temperatures.
It’s just too bad that the blossoms only last for two to three weeks. Their lovely pink color are of the main reasons why it’s so popular.
Deep green foliage extends into autumn
A deep green foliage appears after its flowering and quickly fill out the tree. The foliage stretches into the autumn season (late August). In case of hot and dry summers, you will notice that its foliage becomes bronzed, especially under dry conditions.
Fall brings an extra bonus in the form of beauty. The foliage turns to an attractive bronze-orange to orange-red as the autumn weather brings sunshine and cool night temperatures.
The Okame Produce Fruit
Not all of them though, but it’s a few that do not make fruits. They are certainly bred for flowers but during summer, some of them actually produce small cherries. The cherries are too sour and you probably wouldn’t enjoy them but birds can’t have enough of them.
Its bark reflects light during winter.
During the winter season, the smooth bark of the Okami cherry tree, with the foliage gone, is often pale rust-tan or gray. It has small spot holes on it, and the satiny sheen of this bark reflects light.
It’s suitable under both cold and hot climate conditions
Do not worry if you live in an area with colder weather conditions. It can perfectly do well in such climates. Fairly cold winters are necessary for the cherry to bring flower buds into being in the springtime. If you live in an area with hotter weather conditions you shouldn’t worry either.
The hybrid is best planted in full sun but with partial shade during the day’s hottest hours. Make sure it gets at least 4 to 6 hours of direct sunshine each day.
The more sun you provide, the better for okame flowering cherry and its uniform shape. It just needs fairly moist, fertile and well-draining soil. It tolerates sandy, loam and heavy clay soils. However, if the soil is too dry, the foil dries and drops prematurely.
Placing a broad swath of organic mulch under it retains soil moisture and keeps its temperatures moderated throughout the seasons. Make sure the layer is 2 – 3 inch thick. This keeps weeds down and prevents the foliage from drying up too early in case of drought or hot conditions.
They can easily make beautiful scenery
If you strategically place dark-colored structures behind it, the pink flowering makes a beautiful view. They also bring out a great, colorful look with evergreens behind.
It’s an early spring bloomer that tops its group in terms of beauty. The glorious single deep pink flowers with red calyces and stems. The eye-catching color contrast. Makes it easy for it to be the most beautiful plant in February.
Plant it anytime during its growing season and give it some extra care after. It is tolerant of heat and cold climates. An adequate water supply will aid the recovery of its roots and sends out new sprouts.