Standing at the top of a bluff, overlooking the lake in the sandstone garden at Cambridge Botanics, is my favourite tree in the garden. Ok, I might need to use the word favourite for other examples there, but it remains a fact that on every visit I check out this tree in detail. The tree is Prunus serrulata ‘Alboplena’, a Japanese Cherry and it looks old and gnarled and just like it has stepped out of a japanese silk painting.
The tree has a wonderful shape, a knobbly bole and unusually (for this species) has a bifurcated trunk. I am not sure exactly how old it is, but it feels noble!
This week I actually managed to time a trip to see the snowy white blossom. This luck was partly because I had noticed that the Japanese cherries in Wimpole were in bloom and also because I was following up a Wordlessly Wednesday reveal from ….. Gardening Jules for Staphylea holocarpa ‘Rosea’, (apparently there is an example in the middle of the rose garden at the Botanics). So I caught both in their full glory. A result all round!
In the end, what I like best about the P. serrulata ‘Alboplena’ is neither the flowers (which coats the dark limbs like a heavy snowfall because they are so full) nor its autumn colour, but its form and structure. I especially like the tips of its branches. They look just like fractal patterns.
I know that you can see fractal designs in a lot of nature (snowflakes, ferns etc are good examples). Indeed, they use fractals to generate CGI landscapes in films routinely these days. (The first film to do so was Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan in 1982.)
I think it is because the Prunus serrulata in the Botanic Gardens is just so bold in the small details of its form though, with its dark, knobbly bark contrasting against the flowers, you can always see the pattern:
Especially in winter, against the sky:
Fractal-like branches of Prunus serrulata seen against a blue sky
It is back to the most basic fractal development possible and I love it.