The blossoms of the apricot trees in the orchard below our property are just beginning to crack open. The trees are on a west-facing slope so any heat that has been generated in the past few weeks has begun to take effect. Apricots are always the first fruit trees to bloom in our valley and thus most susceptible to frost damage.
I mention this because the ornamental cherry and plum blossoms are out in full glory in Vancouver, in Washington DC and in Japan. This is cause for celebration in these locales; in Japan viewing parties and picnics are held from March until May as hundreds of thousands of citizens gather under the cloud of blooms that forms on the trees. Washington DC has a Cherry Blossom Festival each year although this year’s date is later than usual due to the cold and snowy winter on the US Eastern seaboard.
In Vancouver there are some 45 varieties of ornamental cherries and plums found on the boulevards of the city’s streets, totaling around 18,000 trees. I remember taking a final walk around my tree-filled neighbourhood when I was a university student in Vancouver before returning to the Okanagan for the summer. The fragrance of the trees was evident as soon as I stepped outside and I can still see in my mind’s eye the magical sight of several blocks lined with the gauze-like blossoms of cherries. The entire city seems to be bathed in white or pink for a few weeks in April.
Refugees from the “Wet Coast” will no doubt notice that there are no ornamental cherries in the Okanagan Valley. I missed them when I moved back and I continue to miss them at this time of the year. But, they’re not here and they never will be. The reason? Flowering cherries are prohibited by law in both the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys, as well as in the Creston Valley further east.
Ornamental cherries are symptomless carriers of the Little Cherry Disease. This virus causes smaller, poorly coloured and flavourless fruit on infected trees; a serious problem for the commercial industry. The Little Cherry Control Regulation has been in place since 1947, so we won’t be seeing city blocks lined with flowering cherries anytime soon.
But we have something that Vancouver, the US capital and Tokyo doesn’t have. We have acres of blossoms of apricots, followed by those beautiful pink peach blooms, then plums, pears, cherries and finally apples. Walk through an orchard in full bloom and you’ll get a sense of just how special our valley is. When the petals fall to the ground what follows? The fruit! That’s a reason for a picnic and a party isn’t it?

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