Forest Gate Community Garden
Saturday, 26 August 2023
We have two cherry trees at the front of the garden. The larger of the two may be 50 years or more old. It is certainly in peak condition with no rot or decay. In late April or early May, it is a glorious froth of pink blossom, enhanced by the lack of leaves. The blossom doesn’t last long, two weeks if we are lucky, a week if it’s windy. It is a Japanese flowering cherry, and in its glory, we get a touch of the Japanese festival of Hanami, when people celebrate the cherry blossom in parks and countryside. They have picnics lasting long into the day, more of a party than a picnic which may include music and dance.
Our tree has no fruit, it has been cultivated for its blossom alone. The other cherry tree, the canopies of the two trees just about touch, has white blossom and a few cherries in season. I estimate it to be about 25 years old. It blooms a little after the older tree, but there are a few days when they overlap and we get a cloud of white/pink blossom in that corner of the garden, soon to carpet the path like confetti.
A tree with no fruit has to be propagated vegetatively. This means by cuttings or buds, though other trees use these methods too as they are quicker to grow than by seed. Roses are mostly grown by budding. A bud or two of the plant to propagated is inserted under the skin of the rootstock, usually a type of dog rose. The bud grows, true to form, a clone of its parent. Apples are pears are usually grown by grafting. A stem cutting is spliced into the rootstock, and tied in tightly. You can tell when a tree has been grafted by the bulge in the trunk near the ground, where the graft took place. It doesn’t rise up the tree, as this is not how trees grow. They have a cambium layer which grows outwards, hence tree thickening, and upwards by creating new wood.
Neither of our cherry trees have any sign of grafts. The pink cherry tree will have been grown from stem cuttings, either softwood, taken in spring or hardwood, taken in late summer. I suspect the white cherry has been grown this way too. Although, it has some fruit it is likely that it too has been grown for blossom. The cherries if sown might not breed true, and may be inferior blossom wise.
The Dare to Dream stage now has its art display, which makes the name apt. The art is on the side wall of the stage facing Sprowston Road. There five artists have work which was either images of the garden or inspired by it. The artists are: Caz Antoun , Julia Satman, Veronica Jeans, Susan Foley, Lorraine Tapper. Gardens have always been an inspiration for artists. They are tranquil spaces of colour and greenery. I think too of Monet’s water lilies in his garden at Giverny, close to Paris and Rouen. He was losing his sight, could barely see, just enough to see the colour and form he painted.
Another art form taking shape is the frog mosaic, which will back the snail mosaic. I see it often as I go down Earlham Grove and peer into Hazel’s front garden. He is a big fellow, around a metre high, and surrounded by water lilies and rushes. Slow and patient work, it will be another month or two before he comes our way.