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Odes

Ode to Nanking Cherries (Prunus tomentosa)

Nanking cherries (Prunus tomentosa) may be my favorite plant from a beauty perspective. They grow as bushes, and do very well in the high desert of Northern Arizona. I really enjoy watching them go through their yearly cycles, awaiting their arrival in spring and rejoicing in their fall departure knowing the joys of the year will repeat themselves. In spring, they come out with proliferous blossoms between pink and white in color. These blossoms appear before any buds on the plant have begun to pop and so stand as the Chinese symbol of hardiness in winter and hope for spring. As the leaves come in, the plant takes on a light green that verges toward yellow in the healthiest way. Each leaf is furrowed with veins that give the leaves an interesting texture, and the growth of the branches opens in every direction to give the bush a sense of lushness and abundance. As summer passes, Nanking cherries keep their healthy green through tough droughts and into the summer monsoons. The fall then brings out the best of the plant. I have often thought that it would be neat to put Christmas lights on fall plants to highlight their amazing color at night, and Nanking cherries are among the top plants I think of for this. There is an underlying white color to the leaves as they turn in fall. The leaves stay on the plant for a fairly long time, and over the base white of the leaves play all the colors of fall and sunsets from orange to yellow to red to pink. Each bush has its own particular coloration, providing the fireworks of fall.