As we approach the last days of winter….even though snow has been minimal, signs of the next season are becoming increasingly obvious every day.  I was looking for signs of life on the ground, in the form of a crocus or Galanthus nivalis,  when much to my surprise, above ground I found a gift – Prunus mume “Matsura Red”. From the street, it looked like a dark fuchsia haze on this much-branched small tree. As I got closer, the buds – some tight and others unfurling – were strung like pearls gracing gnarly brownish-gray branches. In the midst of the fuchsia flowers, delicate yellow centers radiating beams of sunshine added additional beauty to these 1-inch blooms.Prunus mume “Matsura Red” has been in cultivation for quite a while.  Native to Japan, with proper care it is known to be a long-lived tree. Grown in full sun to part shade in well-drained soil, this small tree will provide many hours of bird watching – the birds love it! Pruning at the proper time – immediately after bloom – to remove broken, rubbing or dead branches will enhance the beauty of the blooms for the following season. Considered a fast growing specimen,  achieving heights of 18 – 25 feet tall and a canopy of about 18 – 25 feet as well, the older these trees get, the more intricately beautiful the canopy becomes when looking at it from below.After bloom, a small, yellow edible fruit is produced.  This fruit is a tad bitter, but it is usually pickled in its native region of Japan.  I can only imagine that with the Chef’s of today, there are many alternative ways to enjoy the fruits of this beautiful Spring beauty either in desserts or accompanying the main dish.

One more virtue of this late winter flowering apricot is the delicate fragrance that wafts through the air from the fuchsia blooms. It smells like the embrace in the bosom of that great-aunt who just wants to hug you while smothering you with kisses. Not overwhelming, but a lingering, pleasantly familiar scent.

If you are looking for that long-lived, specimen tree with awesome late winter bloom and a scent that brings a smile to your face, try a flowering apricot – specifically Prunus mume “Matsura Red”.


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