In the springtime, our Instagram feeds fill up with photos of cherry blossoms, and it’s not uncommon for tourists and Vancouverites alike to journey around the city in search of the best blossoms.
Fortunately, at UBC, there is an impressive variety of cherry blossoms across the Point Grey campus, so you don’t have to travel far to experience some beautiful trees.
Q&A with UBC Botanical Garden Associate Director & Curator of Collections Douglas Justice
“I believe we have a responsibility to maintain and expand on the diversity of these beautiful trees on campus.”
What are your favourite spots to check out the cherry blossoms on campus?
A: The Botanical Garden, now that the Wharton Cherry Grove is maturing, and Nitobe Memorial Garden.
How many varieties of cherry blossoms are found on campus?
A: About 20 or so.
Is there anything unique about UBC that explains why we have so many varieties of cherry blossoms here?
A: A number of cherries date from the 1950s, but in the 1960s a good number of different cultivars were planted at Nitobe Memorial Garden and others elsewhere on campus. More recently, the Botanical Garden began planting cherries in the Wharton Grove. The reason that there is a good diversity of cherry trees at UBC is that John W. Neill (Supervisor of Campus Development from 1949 to 1973) was interested in cherries and recognized that they were excellent trees for this area. As these original trees are fast disappearing, I believe we have a responsibility to maintain and expand on the diversity of these beautiful trees on campus.
Do you have a favourite variety of cherry blossom?
A: I have a favourite early cherry (‘Whitcomb’);
a favourite late cherry (‘Shiro-fugen’);
a favourite small cherry (‘Atsumori’);
a favourite large cherry (‘Ichiyo’);
a favourite fragrant cherry (‘Taki-nioi’);
a favourite cherry with weird flowers (‘Gyoiko’);
a favourite cherry with huge soft pink double flowers (‘Ito-kukuri’);
a favourite cherry with fuzzy leaves (‘Takasago’);
a favourite cherry with red new growth (‘Choshu-hizakura’);
a favourite narrow upright cherry (‘Ama-no-gawa’);
a favourite cherry that blooms on my birthday and that smells of almonds (Shirotae’);
a favourite cherry that has an unlikely name and an extraordinary habit of flowering (‘Ichihara-tora-no-o’, the tiger tail cherry from Ichihara);
a favourite ancient cherry that we’ve been trying unsuccessfully to propagate (‘Hosokawa-nioi’);
and a favourite bullet-proof cherry (‘Akebono’).
A Visual Guide to Cherry Blossoms on Campus
Cherry Blossom Hot Spots at UBC
Cherry Blossoms in Vancouver
The Vancouver Cherry Blossoms Festival is an annual, month-long festival that celebrates the history and seasonal beauty of Vancouver’s cherry blossoms. They have a city-wide map for those looking to make a day out of hunting for cherry blossoms, as well as events throughout the month of April.
You can also pick up a copy of Douglas Justice’s guidebook, Ornamental Cherries in Vancouver, for information on Vancouver’s 54 varieties (or cultivars) of blossoming trees. This book includes detailed information and beautiful photos, as well as specific locations for Vancouver’s 54 varieties (or cultivars) of blossoming trees, including the recently discovered and sublime Ito-kukuri, whose history dates back to 1681 in Japan, the very fragrant Hosokowa-nioi and the exceptionally rare Choshu-hizakura, of which only a single tree is known to be growing in the Vancouver area.
Where to start?
The UBC Welcome Centre is located in the Robert H. Lee Alumni Centre and is the perfect place to start your journey on the Vancouver campus. Knowledgeable staff can answer your questions, provide maps and directions and let you know what events are happening during your visit.
Check out the UBC Botanical Gardens during your next visit to UBC. They have great tours and workshops going on year-round. The Nitobe Memorial Garden is an authentic Japanese Tea and Stroll garden located in the heart of campus. It fills up with cherry blossoms at this time of the year and is a popular locale for families, photographers, and students alike.