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First Signs of Spring

By Cooper Sanchez
Many of us do not equate the month of February with Spring time. However, if you look closely, you can see signs of a long awaited new season just around the corner. The flowering apricot, or Prunus mume, is in bloom in Oakland’s gardens now.
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A native of Asia, Prunus mumes are among the very first fruit trees to bring color and fragrance to the landscape in late winter, giving us a brilliant reminder of the coming new spring. Introduced to American gardens in 1844, Prunus mumes come in many varieties and can usually be seen blooming in mid to late February with the earliest daffodils, hellebores and witch hazels. The flowers open over a period of several weeks so the burned flowers after a hard freeze will soon be replaced with fresh ones. The shapes, sizes and uses vary depending on the cultivar selected.
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The term cultivar simply means it was selected for various qualities and brought into cultivation through the help of growers.  Prunus mume can be grown from seed but most are grafted or bonded to a root stock of the hardy purple plum tree.  Also called the Japanese apricot, the Prunus mume is widely loved and celebrated throughout east Asia and has long symbolized perseverance and hope. The grounds directly surrounding Oakland’s bell tower are an ideal location to look for Prunus mumes in bloom now. One of our favorite cultivars, ‘W. B. Clarke’, is a weeping form with pale pink flowers. It is growing near the fountain. The flowers open in clusters along the branches and range in color from vivid red (‘Matsubara Red’) to soft pinks and white (`Rosemary Clarke’).
2014-02-20_13-36-51_694x Prunus mume 'Rosemary Clarke' (3) Prunus mume 'Rosemary Clarke' (2)
Oakland’s collection of flowering apricots are not grown for the fruit, but to enhance our winter landscape and offer all who visit a bit of hope for the coming of spring.

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