Tag Archives: Prunus Pink Clouds

The pros and cons of the campanulata cherries

Manna from heaven for the tui

Manna from heaven for the tui

Taiwanese cherries, Fomosan cherries, Prunus campanulata – they are one and the same and around this time of the year are explosions of candy pink which bring tui to the garden. In our case, it is not one or two tui. We could count them by the score if they would just sit still long enough for us to carry out a census.

Mark was not too sure about the tui which seems to have mastered the sound of vuvuzela. But I digress.

Love the trees or hate them, the tui have no qualms at all. The nectar is manna from heaven to them. And therein lies the problem. I was contacted recently by someone who is crusading against the sale and planting of campanulata cherries and I was only relatively sympathetic because I think we are in danger of throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

The problem is the seeding habits of some campanulatas. Many set prodigious amounts of seed which is then spread far and wide by our bird population. There is an alarmingly high rate of germination. The seedlings grow rapidly and after the second season, plants are too big to hand pull out. If you cut them off, they grow again. So bad is the problem that they have been banned in Northland and this correspondent would like to see them banned everywhere.

“There are loads of better trees for Tui such as Kowhai, Rewarewa that can be available at the same time” he claimed. I don’t want to be picky with someone who genuinely cares for the environment, but on a property packed with food for the birds, I have never seen a plant as attractive to tui as the campanulata cherries. Besides, in late winter, neither kowhai nor rewarewa are in flower yet.

I mentioned babies and bathwater because the problem is seeding. There are sterile forms of campanulata and both gardeners and tui alike may rue the day if ALL campanulatas get banned, even the named forms that never set seed. This is a problem we gardeners have brought upon ourselves. The record of garden escapes into the wild is not a proud one and too many gardeners don’t take responsibility for their weeds.

Prunus Pink Clouds - one of the sterile forms raised here by Felix Jury

Prunus Pink Clouds – one of the sterile forms raised here by Felix Jury

Mark’s father, Felix, was a fan of the campanulatas and he bred a few. “Pink Clouds” has an attractive weeping habit and an avenue of them has been a feature at Auckland Regional Botanical Gardens. I assume it is still there. “Mimosa” is more upright and flowers a little later. “Petite Pink” is probably no longer available commercially but is a dear little tree that never gets much over two metres in height but has all the appearance and shape of a proper tree. The thing that sets these three apart is that they are all sterile. They don’t set seed so are never going to become weeds. All three are in that candy floss pink colour range.

Prunus “Felix Jury” was named for him by Duncan and Davies (it is not the done thing, dear readers, to ever name a plant after yourself) but it was of his raising. It is a much deeper colour, carmine red, and a small growing tree. What it is not, alas, is sterile so if you see it being advertised as that, the nursery or garden centre is wrong.

It seems to be quite difficult to find reliable information on the seeding habits of other cultivars on the NZ market. If anybody knows more on this topic, please let me know. Every year at this time, Mark starts to talk about doing some more work with campanulatas to raise more sterile forms. We know which ones are sterile in the garden but the best one is a rather large tree for most people on small urban sections. It would not allow you to fit your house on the plot as well.

Petal carpets supreme

Petal carpets supreme

I can also tell you that one of our most common weeds here is seedling cherries and we are vigilant and persistent. If you live anywhere near native bush or a reserve, you should take great care to grow only sterile forms or to avoid them altogether if you are not sure. If you live in town with a seeding specimen, your neighbours probably grit their teeth at the seedlings that pop up in their place.

If you can manage the weed potential, the explosion of bloom in late winter is wonderful. Taiwanese cherries flower much earlier than their Japanese counterparts and are nowhere near as susceptible to root problems in wetter climates, so they live longer. Nor do they suffer from witches’ broom which can take over the Japanese types. It is when part of the tree grows much more densely and vigorously and fails entirely to flower. Left to its own devices, witches’ broom can take over the entire tree and the only way to deal with it is to cut out affected sections. It is very obliging of the campanulatas to be resistant.

The tui would be most grateful if we could just get this right for them before all campanulata are banned are noxious weeds.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.

In the Garden: August 13, 2010

Prunus Pink Clouds - bringing in the tuis

Prunus Pink Clouds - bringing in the tuis

• Spring has certainly made her presence felt this week and our tui have returned to the flowering cherries, including one distinctive golden brown tui in its third season here. It is the campanulata or Taiwanese cherries in flower at this time which attract the native nectar feeders. Try and buy sterile, named forms if you are planting them because some can seed too freely.

• With the warmer weather, there will be an explosion of germinating weed seeds so be vigilant and try and eradicate this crop before they get established and seed further. Spreading a thick enough layer of mulch will suppress weeds as well as retain moisture levels for when drier weather sets in but lay your mulch after you have done a weeding round, not on top of existing weeds.

• Slugs and snails are also getting more active. If you are looking for alternatives to poisonous baits, you can try baker’s bran in reasonably thick circles or mounds (irresistible to the slimy critters who then get picked off by the birds). Alternatively, ring plants in sand, grit or masses of crushed egg shell – it is not bullet proof but it helps discourage them. Or make traps from the time-honoured hollowed out orange skin or half empty cans of beer – but you do have to go round and squash them after you have encouraged them to congregate. Getting out with a torch at night, especially after rain, can show up quite a number of them too.

• Spare a thought for permanent container plants. They need their potting mix replaced every two years and they need feeding at least once a year in spring. You may need to hose all the old mix off the roots and trim the roots to fit back into the same pot. It is less stressful to the plant to do it now rather than when it starts to look very sad in summer.

• I read a hint in a gardening magazine to trample down green crops before you dig them in to the vegetable garden. The crushing process hastens the breakdown. It seems to make good sense. Get onto digging in any green crops without delay.

• If you still plan to plant fruit trees this season, get right onto it now. The sooner they go in, the better chance they have of getting established. The same applies to all trees and shrubs for the ornamental garden.

• And a bouquet this week to Todd Energy who have started the process to put in screening plantings to block their Mangahewa-C well site from public view. Living as we do in green countryside peppered with ugly, albeit small, industrial sites, we applaud this new move and hope that other energy companies will follow the lead. These sites can be rendered almost invisible to ground level view by simple plantings but it has taken a long time before one company has decided that this is an appropriate priority. By planting the right species, they can contribute to the environment as well.