The irresistible story of Japanese cherry blossoms, threatened by political ideology and saved by an unknown Englishman
Collingwood Ingram, known as ‘Cherry’ for his defining obsession, was born in 1880 and lived until he was a hundred, witnessing a fraught century of conflict and change.
After visiting Japan in 1902 and 1907 and discovering two magnificent cherry trees in the garden of his family home in Kent in 1919, Ingram fell in love with cherry blossoms, or sakura, and dedicated much of his life to their cultivation and preservation.
On a 1926 trip to Japan to search for new specimens, Ingram was shocked to see the loss of local cherry diversity, driven by modernisation, neglect and a dangerous and creeping ideology. A cloned cherry, the Somei-yoshino, was taking over the landscape and becoming the symbol of Japan’s expansionist ambitions.
The most striking absence from the Japanese cherry scene, for Ingram, was that of Taihaku, a brilliant ‘great white’ cherry tree. A proud example of this tree grew in his English garden and he swore to return it to its native home. Multiple attempts to send Taihaku scions back to Japan ended in failure, but Ingram persisted.
Over decades, Ingram became one of the world’s leading cherry experts and shared the joy of sakura both nationally and internationally. Every spring we enjoy his legacy. ‘Cherry’ Ingram is a portrait of this little-known Englishman, a story of Britain and Japan in the twentieth century and an exploration of the delicate blossoms whose beauty is admired around the world.
PUBLISHED BY CHATTO WINDUS
I found this to be a fascinating and intoxicating book about a man and how his passion for plants became and obsession, and shaped his life along with the landscapes of Japan and many other countries at the same time. It does help if you love gardening, I do!, to ‘get’ this book but it also contains a staggering look at the history of Japan and its’ people, and I found myself learning so much.
There’s so much to admire about Cherry Ingram. He was born in 1880 and soon became obsessed by plant hunting and gardening, with cherry blossom trees being his absolute passion. He had many trips to Japan to see and collect rare species, and over the years he saw and was shocked by the changes in Japan, to the detriment of his beloved cherry trees so he took it on himself to start sending trees from his garden that he’d collected back to Japan to begin their revival. The attention to detail shown by him towards his plants was staggering – it often seemed he cared more for his plants than his own children!
As it looks at the man in his home life, as well as his plant hunting life, it explores many avenues of the life he led, over so many years in a world that was constantly changing. Even during the war he was always willing to be involved and was part of the local community effort to protect these shores.
He led an amazing life, devoted to his wife, his trees and birdwatching too, and I just loved learning about him and how this englishman had affected the way even the Japanese viewed their trees and the impact it had on the local people. The author shares his own history too with his family, and their experiences especially during the war and it was just one of those books that was interesting from start to finish.