January plant of the month: Manchurian cherry

With shining trunks to illuminate the winter garden, scented spring blossom and lovely autumn colour, this cherry makes a long-lasting display

Prunus maackiiThe winter months are a perfect time to enjoy the structural elements in your garden such as evergreen shrubs, conifers, and trees that have beautiful bark, such as Prunus maackii ‘Amber Beauty’.

Prunus is a wide-ranging group of plants from the ornamental flowering cherries, fruit trees and almonds to hedging species like blackthorn (sloe) as well as specimen trees. There are several which have fantastically coloured bark, including our plant of the month, Prunus maackii ‘Amber Beauty’, which is also called the Manchurian cherry.

In spring it bears dense clusters (racemes) of blossom, each with 6-10 bowl-shaped, fragrant white flowers. This selection forms a dense crown and produces a rounded head as it matures, reaching up to 8m (26ft) tall and 5m (16ft) wide. As the leaves fall their yellow tones contrast fantastically with the stunning, smoothly polished, golden-orange bark which shines through during the winter months, particularly in the low winter sun and is this tree's crowning glory.

How to grow

Prunus are generally easy to grow and this species prefers a humus-rich, free draining soil but it dislikes growing in soil that stays wet during the winter months. It also prefers to be grown in an open sunny site and a richer colour on the bark will be produced when it is grown in full sun. It requires little in the way of pruning other than ensuring any crossing branches are removed from the crown while it is establishing.
At RHS Garden Hyde Hall you can find Prunus maackii ‘Amber Beauty’ growing in our Winter Garden which has just been completed and is now open to visitors.

This exciting new garden feature showcases winter-flowering trees and shrubs as well as plants with winter interest, such as vibrantly coloured stems. Mixed through these are spring- and summer-flowering perennials and grasses which hold attractive seedheads and structure through the winter months such as echinaceas, sedum 'Matrona' and Calamagrostis brachytricha.

Favourites such as the golden willow (Salix alba var. vitellina ‘Yelverton’) and dogwood Cornus sanguinea ‘Anny’s Winter Orange’ with their brightly coloured stems feature in the Winter Garden, alongside more unusual plants such as the paper bush (Edgeworthia chrysantha), and the snakebark maple (Acer × conspicuum ‘Phoenix’).

See also

If you're an RHS member, log in to our website and hear Dogwoods for winter bark - RHS Members' Podcast episode 49

Discover more favourites for winter colour, as chosen by Curators and Head Gardeners from RHS Partner Gardens

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