Dwarf Chinese apricot
Photo: Dwarf Chinese apricot (Prunus armeniaca ‘Chinese’ ?), but it looks and smells like my favorite ume (Prunus mume).

Last spring we had the entire yard redesigned by Paul Henderson, a local landscape designer, who showed up at our house with green Wellies and a fabulously plummy British accent. I showed him a few pictures of Japanese gardens, irregular stone paths, and such, but told him I didn’t want a Japanese theme park. I wanted something that used native Virginia species with a few exotics to hint at Japanese principles. I didn’t want cherry trees and a koi pond, as pretty as they are. I’ll leave the hardcore stuff to Hillwood Gardens. I wanted birds to visit, some fruit, and a place to plant a vegetable garden. And I wanted something that looked good all year.

We ended up with a lovely garden that features an arbor of apple serviceberry trees, and includes (among other things) a stand of dogwoods, several different kinds of azaleas, a wide variety of evergreens including a Japanese cedar, camellias, tricolor beeches, a redbud, a witch-hazel bush, highbush blueberry shrubs, clumping bamboo, and a dwarf Chinese apricot tree.

Dwarf Chinese apricot

The apricot wasn’t in his original plan. Paul had a habit of showing up with new babies: “I thought this would be fabulous in this spot.” The tree was Charlie Brown—pathetic, a little stick thing that Paul said would fruit. I thought it looked a bit wan and bet it wouldn’t survive the winter. I didn’t even think about what the flowers would look like…

Dwarf Chinese apricot

…until two days ago, when my little apricot tree exploded in white blossoms. I put my nose to the blossoms this morning and they smelled of very much like my favorite ume trees in Japan, the aroma of which is a combination of bubblegum and tea roses and talcum powder. This tree is a different species and, if Paul is right, will give me apricots. We’ll see about the fruit, but it has already earned its keep in eye candy.

Dwarf Chinese apricot

Advertisements