Cherry blossom tree. The Beauty of the Shelby Ave. Arboretum Cherry Blossom Trees

The Beauty of the Shelby Ave. Arboretum Cherry Blossom Trees

Cher­ry blos­soms are an incred­i­ble spec­ta­cle we’re for­tu­nate enough to take in each spring in Nashville. Let’s learn more about the cher­ry blos­som trees of the Shel­by Ave. Arbore­tum and how they came to be a sta­ple of Nashville greenery. 

What Makes Cher­ry Trees Special?

We’ve all seen cher­ry trees before, even if we haven’t real­ly thought about it. Inter­na­tion­al­ly known and cel­e­brat­ed for their del­i­cate, fleet­ing, and pro­fuse blos­soms, cher­ry blos­som trees are a treat for the sens­es each spring as they bloom. Their blos­soms make this — and many oth­er species of cher­ry tree — the most strik­ing flow­er­ing tree. As if that weren’t enough, many pro­vide fruit each year, with cher­ries being val­ued for their intense fla­vor and ver­sa­til­i­ty in bak­ing and cook­ing. Cher­ry trees are espe­cial­ly suit­ed for cli­mates in the north­ern hemi­sphere and can put up with cold and warm weath­er very well.

Most cher­ry trees don’t have excep­tion­al­ly long lifes­pans, with a major­i­ty liv­ing between 15 and 25 years in good con­di­tions. Black cher­ry trees can live much longer, and with good upkeep, any cher­ry tree can defy the odds. Most flow­er­ing cher­ry trees take any­where between three and five years to blos­som after being plant­ed. Cher­ry blos­som trees don’t grow par­tic­u­lar­ly tall or wide, with their height usu­al­ly cap­ping at around 25 feet. This makes them per­fect for grow­ing in the par­tial shade of oth­er trees and means they won’t inter­fere with pow­er and tele­phone lines either. 

So, you might be won­der­ing, Does the Shel­by Avenue Arbore­tum have cher­ry blos­soms?” The answer is a resound­ing yes! The project has over 100 cher­ry blos­som trees, and we have four dif­fer­ent cher­ry vari­eties plant­ed along Shel­by Ave. You can view 90 Ake­bono cher­ry blos­som trees lin­ing both sides of the street down South 12th Street. At the Shel­by Avenue Arbore­tum, all of our cher­ry trees will be bloom­ing ful­ly in five years. Expect some to be ear­ly bloomers to give us a pre­view of what to expect in lat­er years, though. 

Nashville and Cher­ry Trees

If there’s any one coun­try that has a claim to the cher­ry tree, it’s Japan. The Japan­ese have been cul­ti­vat­ing the cher­ry blos­som tree for cen­turies, breed­ing them as orna­men­tal plants rather than fruit-bear­ing ones. Many Japan­ese cher­ry trees don’t pro­duce fruit at all, which gives them even more spec­tac­u­lar blos­soms that last even longer. Also called Saku­ra, the cher­ry tree is incred­i­bly impor­tant to Japan and, by exten­sion, to the city of Nashville. 

In 2008, the Japan­ese con­sulate-gen­er­al relo­cat­ed to Nashville from New Orleans. Dur­ing the move, the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment gave the city a gift in the form of 1,000 cher­ry trees, which were plant­ed in the sub­se­quent years. These cher­ry trees can be found across the city, and each spring, their blos­soms are a great reminder of this gra­cious gift. 

The Many Species of Cher­ry Blos­som Trees at Shel­by Avenue Arboretum 

Many Japan­ese cul­ti­vars of cher­ry trees grow well in Nashville, includ­ing the Ake­bono and Okame. These trees, along with two oth­er cher­ry blos­som vari­eties, have been plant­ed along Shel­by Avenue in the Shel­by Ave. Arbore­tum project. How­ev­er, care had to go into plant­i­ng cher­ry blos­som trees in the city. While cher­ry trees are hardy and can put up with city liv­ing, they aren’t immune to pol­lu­tion. Cer­tain species of cher­ry trees just wouldn’t cut it in Nashville.

Which is the most beau­ti­ful cher­ry blos­som tree, you ask? Beau­ty is in the eye of the behold­er! Depend­ing on who you ask, you might get a very dif­fer­ent answer.

The Kwan­zan cher­ry tree is a com­mon favorite. Plant­ed right here in the Shel­by Avenue Arbore­tum, this cher­ry vari­ety is a native to Japan and east Asia. When you think of a stereo­typ­i­cal cher­ry blos­som, you’re prob­a­bly pic­tur­ing a Kwan­zan cher­ry. These trees pro­duce clus­ters of three or five bright pink flow­ers, which are con­sid­ered dou­ble-blos­soms. This is a spe­cial trait that not many cher­ry trees pos­sess, mak­ing it unique­ly strik­ing. And the flow­ers aren’t the only beau­ti­ful fea­ture of these trees. Their leaves change col­or year-round, from vivid light and dark greens in the spring and sum­mer, to fall reds and cop­pers, giv­ing way to yel­low in the late fall.

The Yoshi­no is anoth­er can­di­date for the most beau­ti­ful blos­som. This white flow­er­ing cher­ry tree is tru­ly a sight. After being intro­duced to the Unit­ed States from Japan for the first time in 1902, this beau­ty has nev­er waned in pop­u­lar­i­ty as an orna­men­tal cher­ry tree. While many of these trees don’t pro­duce fruit after flow­er­ing, some can pro­duce small, red­dish-black cher­ries that aren’t par­tic­u­lar­ly tasty or use­ful to peo­ple. Instead, birds and oth­er local wildlife can enjoy these non-tox­ic treats. The white flow­ers of the Yoshi­no cher­ry tree are an incred­i­ble com­ple­ment to the pink blooms of the Kwan­zan cher­ry, and these two work togeth­er to cre­ate a one-of-a-kind spring­time spectacle. 

Ake­bono cher­ry trees pro­duce beau­ti­ful pink blos­soms each spring. At the arbore­tum, these trees are expect­ed to grow to a height of 35 feet at the most. Also called the day­break cher­ry, this tree was first hybridized in the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry. With this tree, you get the best of both worlds. While the blos­soms of the Ake­bono cher­ry start small and pink, they become large and white as they mature. They have a pleas­ant almond scent dur­ing the bloom, and for­tu­nate­ly, these trees are very drought-resis­tant. Nashville isn’t a city with con­sis­tent rain­fall in the sum­mer, and this tree’s abil­i­ty to thrive on lit­tle mois­ture is a huge benefit. 

Last but not least, the Okame cher­ry tree pro­duces bright and vivid pink flow­ers. Grow­ing to a max­i­mum height of rough­ly 30 feet, these cher­ry trees are on the small side. But they make up for their rel­a­tive­ly short stature with a beau­ti­ful dis­play each spring. This species was hybridized in Eng­land, and one of its great­est attrib­ut­es is its cold resis­tance. While sum­mers are hot in Nashville, the win­ters can get cold just as eas­i­ly. Being able to put up with the bit­ter win­ter cold and still bloom in the spring is this tree’s strong suit. Gen­er­al­ly, this tree doesn’t pro­duce fruit like many of the oth­er cher­ry trees in the arbore­tum, and that’s for a few rea­sons. While cher­ries are deli­cious, har­vest­ing them isn’t the pri­ma­ry goal. 

Okame, Ake­bono, Yoshi­no, and Kwan­zan cher­ry blos­som vari­eties line the streets of Shel­by Avenue. You will find the high­est con­cen­tra­tion of cher­ry blos­som trees lin­ing South 12th Street, where you’ll see the Ake­bono cher­ry blos­som tree vari­ety in full dis­play. Ake­bono is a muta­tion of the very pop­u­lar Yoshi­no cher­ry blos­som tree, which has a slight­ly more pink blos­som, and an extra flower petal on some of the blos­som clus­ters that form. The ever-so-pop­u­lar Yoshi­no cher­ry tree can be found on the north side of Shel­by Avenue at the inter­sec­tion of South 9th Street. You can also find a stand of Kwan­zan cher­ry blos­som trees grow­ing there, as well as the ear­ly-bloom­ing Okame cher­ry blos­som vari­ety. There are more cher­ry blos­som vari­eties to come! As we make room in the project, we’ll squeeze in hard­er-to-source vari­eties, such as large weep­ing cher­ry blos­soms and colum­nar-shaped types.

Fruit-pro­duc­ing trees don’t often end up in city arbore­tums. While their fruit is some­times picked, it’s often left to fall to the ground. On side­walks, this can be a sticky sit­u­a­tion. Since we want our arbore­tum to be eas­i­ly walk­a­ble, we opt­ed for species that rarely pro­duce fruit. 

Plant­i­ng Your Own Cher­ry Blos­som Trees

If all this talk of cher­ry blos­som trees has you inter­est­ed in buy­ing your own to plant this year, you’re in luck. As a part of Nashville Tree Con­ser­va­tion Corps, the Shel­by Avenue Arbore­tum ben­e­fits from trees sold by the orga­ni­za­tion. Cher­ry trees range in price from $179 to $199, and most of the species on dis­play at Shel­by Avenue are also avail­able for pur­chase. Besides beau­ti­fy­ing your prop­er­ty with bright blos­soms each year, every pur­chase goes toward NTCC projects like the Shel­by Ave. Arbore­tum. There are oth­er ways to sup­port the project, too. Sim­ply vis­it­ing the arbore­tum to take in the cher­ry blos­soms is a great way to help us out, and we rely on word of mouth when it comes to com­mu­ni­ty involve­ment. You can also donate direct­ly to the project to ensure work like this remains pos­si­ble and hope­ful­ly fund future arbore­tums. The cher­ry tree is a beau­ti­ful sym­bol of spring­time and growth, and we hope these trees bring joy to the community. 

The Shel­by Avenue Arbore­tum is home to sev­er­al types of cher­ry blos­som trees, and each will soon be bloom­ing with beau­ti­ful flow­ers every spring. If you want to learn more about the Shel­by Avenue Arbore­tum project or are look­ing to donate or get involved in the project, send us an email today to learn more.