Cherry that brings cheer 
in depths of British winter

'Autumnalis' produces tiny flowers that look like fairy lights.
'Autumnalis' produces tiny flowers that look like fairy lights.
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Even in the depths of winter, a garden should provide a view to lift the spirits and put a smile on your face.

Those aren’t my words; they were said by the late Geoff Hamilton, the man who understood what a garden should be and who did his damnedest to inspire ordinary people to get outdoors and grow.

So, even now, in a deep and dark December (those words, I think, come from Paul Simon) there should be small pockets of colour, shape and foliage to bring a touch of brightness to the world.

Thankfully a few bright spots do exist. Roses are still blooming, winter jasmine is making a mockery of the damp and dismal days, polyanthus can keep on flowering for months to come, and there are some shrubs and trees that positively thrive when most of the garden sleeps.

And one of the stars right now is a cherry, and a cherry which has been in flower for several weeks and will continue to bloom to welcome the first snowdrops and perhaps even the first daffodils and tulips of 2015.

You may have to look closely to spot them because these cherries are not the gaudy spring-blooming varieties, but the more restrained autumn/winter flowerers. They bloom quietly and efficiently, providing tiny breaths of life at a time when a lot of nature has got its head down until the temperature takes a turn for the better.

Many people won’t even recognise them for what they are. For this, I blame the Japanese whose ornamental cherries explode with flowers in March and April. Such is their popularity that, seemingly, no street is complete without one.

But their time is yet to come. Right now, P subhirtella “Autumnalis” is once again deserving all the accolades, and it will spend the next few weeks producing a steady supply of tiny white or pinkish flowers like Christmas fairy lights.

The trees may be beefier than their ornamental cousins so keep your eyes open for them in municipal parks and gardens where they have the room to grow.