It’s unlikely we’ve said our final goodbye to winter, but the Upstate looks decidedly more spring-like this week with the sudden flowering of the colorful ‘Okame’ cherry.
Among our earliest and longest flowering ornamental trees, ‘Okame’ is a hybrid that grows to 25-feet tall and 20-feet wide. Developed in the 1940s from two species, Prunus campanulata and Prunus incisa, it typically blooms before Valentine’s Day, but this year’s extreme cold altered its timetable by nearly a month.
Flowers of the ‘Okame’ feature carmine-pink petals that flutter on the slightest breeze above a rosy-red calyx. Since blooms appear well before the green leaves begin to break bud, the flowers create an attention-grabbing pink cloud.
In addition to its beautiful flowers, there are a number of other reasons to add this tree to the garden. It’s a relatively fast grower, especially when young, adding two or more feet to its height each year. It has an upright, oval shape which works well in any size landscape. Plus, it’s beautiful in every season. The tree’s vibrant red-orange foliage is a highlight of autumn, while its glossy bark with horizontal striations is especially eye-catching in winter.
Like other cherry trees, ‘Okame’ prefers full sun (at least 6 hours each day) or very light shade, regular moisture, and fast-draining soil. It’s fairly adaptable to various pH levels, but will not tolerate wet feet. In adverse conditions, the tree is particularly susceptible to root rot, so take care where soil is heavy.