The remarkable 1,200-year history of the Japanese cherry blossom tree–and how it was saved from extinction by an English gardener.
Collingwood “Cherry” Ingram first fell in love with the sakura, or cherry tree, when he visited Japan on his honeymoon in 1907. So taken with the plant, he brought back hundreds of cuttings with him to England, where he created a garden of cherry varieties. In 1926, he learned that the Great White Cherry had become extinct in Japan. Six years later, he buried a living cutting from his own collection in a potato and repatriated it via the Trans-Siberian Express. In the years that followed, Ingram sent more than 100 varieties of cherry tree to new homes around the globe, from Auckland to Washington. As much a history of the cherry blossom in Japan as it is the story of one remarkable man, the narrative follows the flower from its adoption as a national symbol in 794, through its use as an emblem of imperialism in the 1930s, to the present-day worldwide obsession with forecasting the exact moment of the trees’ flowering.
“Abe tells the remarkable tale of how this once-ubiquitous tree was on the verge of extinction in the 1920s. Its salvation came in the form of a member of the British gentry, one Collingwood Ingram, whose cherry-tree devotion led to the creation of a massive arboretum in Britain and an advocacy of cherry-tree culture that spread throughout the world. Combining vast historical research, perceptive cultural interpretation, and a gift for keen, biographical storytelling, Abe’s study of one man’s passion for a singular plant species celebrates the beneficial impact such enthusiasts can have on the world at large.” —Booklist
“The story of the connection that linked one man, one flower, and two countries. Lovers of the outdoors, especially gardeners, will find much to enjoy in Japanese journalist Abe’s first English-language book, which won the Nihon Essayist Club Award in 2016. The author engagingly chronicles the travels and plant-collecting adventures of Collingwood Ingram. . . . Interspersed throughout the book are pieces of Japan’s history over the last 2,000 years, and Abe provides sufficient detail to edify but never to bore. The author clearly shows the national importance of the cherry tree and how its perception changed with Westernization. . . . This charming book shows how indebted the world is to Ingram.” —Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
NAOKO ABE is a Japanese journalist based in London. She was the first female political writer to cover the prime minister’s office, the foreign ministry, and the defense ministry at one of Japan’s largest newspapers.