by Claire Kohda Hazelton
‘Cherry’ Ingram: The Englishman Who Saved Japan’s Blossoms by
Between 1639 and 1853, seeds and scions of flowering cherry trees travelled across Japan to Edo (present-day Tokyo). Each came from the most beautiful specimens of varieties of tree from the different principalities of Japan. From mountainous regions came the light pink yama-zakura; from the chilly climates of Hokkaido and northern Honshu came the crimson Ohyama-zakura; Mame-zakura, with their neat skirt-like white petals, came from Mount Fuji; and the rainy Izu islands produced Oshima cherries, with large, white flowers.
This was an era of peace. For centuries before, the various families of Japan had fought for power. Now, they all answered to a single family, the Tokugawa family, in Edo, where each lord was required to have a residence. Almost all lords brought cherries — wild and cultivated — from their principalities with them. And so in Edo gardens — in varying blossom colours, petal numbers and tree shapes — Japan’s diverse cultures, traditions, climates and peoples were represented and celebrated. For months at a time, blossoms of the different varieties, which each bloomed at different times of the year, would put on colourful displays…