Hanami in Zaragoza

stop, look and listen!

stop, look and listen!

Heen says:


Just as I was taking my twentieth photo the other day, a man came up to me and said, “What are you doing?”


Caught off guard, I instinctively glanced at my camera before looking him in the eyes. “I’m taking photos,” I explained quite unnecessarily.


“What of?” he asked, with seemingly genuine curiosity.


“The blossom on these cherry trees.”




“These cherry trees. The blossom. It’s beautiful.”


He looked puzzled. “They aren’t cherry trees.”


“Well, er, yes, they are, actually.”


“No, they’re not. I’ve lived here all my life and I’ve never seen any cherries on them,” he said.


“That’s because they’re ornamental. They’re not the same as the cherry trees that produce edible fruit,” I explained.


He wasn’t convinced. “They’re not cherry trees.”


“Well what are they then?” I asked.


“They’re just trees.”




They’re just trees. And, sadly, that’s what most people think of them. Zaragoza’s streets and parks are home to dozens of varieties of ornamental cherry trees, originally from Japan, which go almost unnoticed and certainly unappreciated by the thousands of people who walk under and past them these glorious Spring days, their boughs laden with dense clouds of pink, white, violet, cream and even pale yellow bloom.


I don’t know how long they’ve been here; I don’t know how they got here; I don’t know if there’s an official list tucked away in the Ayuntamiento de Zaragoza of the multiple varieties and where they grow. But they’re here, they’re beautiful and they’re mine.




I don’t know why, but cherry trees bloom earlier in Spain than in Japan. I’m writing this in mid-March, and it won’t be for another two or three weeks that these same varieties start blooming in their home country.


I think I’ve recognised four different varieties. The most common is kanzan, a chunky-blossomed thing which is actually a kind of yaezakura. It’s obviously a hardy tree which doesn’t need much looking after, and has rather unsophisticated dark pink flowers which make it look better at a distance rather than close up.


Much more subtle, almost whimsical, is the ichiyo, with flimsy practically white flowers. There are several ichiyo trees just round the corner from where we live, and the last time I looked somebody had stapled a notice to one of them saying their dog was missing. I ripped it off, carefully extracting the staples which must have hurt.


If you search hard enough, you can find the odd shidarezakura, which has sort of droopy branches and itsy-bitsy orangey-pink flowers which must look gorgeous next to a lake or something; the best example I’ve seen is one which hangs over a park bench habitually occupied by Rumanian gypsies eating popcorn.




There are several other varieties that I’m not sure about. I’d like to think the tree I see every day by the bus stop is an amanogawa, but it might just be a kanzan. As you can see, I’m no expert. I take an interest in these trees because I find them extremely attractive. I think what makes them so special to me is that their blossom lasts just a few days. I love watching the whole thing unfold: the bumpy brown thing that comes out of what looks like a dead branch when winter is still upon us, the delicacy of the emerging flower, shy at first then proud and shouting as it gains colour, then it blows away on the wind, deliberately and urgently; it loses touch with the tree that nurtured it, and collapses to the ground or flutters off somewhere – a secret graveyard of its own transient magic – and the leaves remain, nostalgic and magnificent in their own right.


“God probably doesn’t exist”, say the so-called humanists. They have probably never seen the blossom on a cherry tree. 





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