How did Rūjiena get its sakuras?

Aivars Blūms and Jana Baltiņa


Terneja Park in the centre of Rūjiena prides itself on the diversity of its trees and especially of its exotic sakura tree garden. There are 4 types of sakuras in the park, and they have a special story.

How did Rūjiena get its sakuras?

Rūjiena and the Japanese city Higashikawa signed a sister city agreement in 2008, and the two cities have had a close relationship ever since. One of the symbols of this agreement is the sakura garden in Terneja Park in the centre of Rūjiena. This garden is special in that the sakuras arrived in Rūjiena by plane from Japan, rather than from a European nursery. These sakuras that have travelled so far can now not only be found in the city park in Rūjiena, but also adorn some of the private gardens of its inhabitants.

Higashikawa is a small town with 7.5 thousand inhabitants located in Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan. Just like in Latvia, the island experiences all four seasons and the snow in the mountains can even reach a depth of 6-8m. Most of the island consists of a nature park.

The sakura is a Japanese cherry tree, which is not only beautiful, but holds a significant place in Japanese traditions, art and even philosophy. Its flowering period is quite short. The sakura is a symbol of Japan, a part of the mentality of the Japanese people, as well as a true marvel of nature. These cherry trees are purely ornamental and bear no fruit.

There is a sakura association in Japan that wants to create an avenue of sakuras in the Baltic States as a symbol of peace and friendship. Globally the sakura is considered to be one of the symbols of Japan along with the kimono, geishas and tea ceremonies. The fragile sakura flower occupies a significant place in traditional Japanese watercolour painting as well as on porcelain and on fans. In Japan, it is customary to hold family events in parks and gardens during the flowering period and people dress up in kimonos in honour of this beautiful time of year. In some countries, there are festivals dedicated to the sakura blossoms, where people have picnics and enjoy the beauty of nature. There is a sakura flower festival in Rūjiena every year as well.

Ornamental cherry trees come in many species and varieties

One of the oldest and most beautiful ornamental Japanese cherry trees is the Yoshino Cherry (Prunus yedoensis). The tree has densely growing branches and spreads widely. It blossoms with simple flowers that are at first light pink, then turn white. It blooms very abundantly and the flowers have a delicate scent. In the autumn, the leaves take on shades ranging from yellow to brick red. Japanese cherry trees are especially popular in gardens. This is what species of Prunus that are native to Japan and China are called, and the varieties that stem from them.

The ornamental Spring Cherry (Prunus subhirtella) has been cultivated in Japan for centuries. The varieties of this cherry are recommended for small gardens: ‘Fukubana’ (dark pink, semi-double flowered, slightly overhanging), ‘Pendula Rubra’ (pink, overhanging, beautiful, strong shoots) and ‘Autumnalis’, which stands out among the other varieties because its semi-double flowered white flowers are an exception in that they bloom from November. Unfortunately, the frost does not spare them.

Existing Japanese cherry trees are complemented by Accolade varieties of Prunus sargentii sakuras. ‘Accolade’ is an exceptionally beautiful hybrid with pink flowers. The tree itself has a wide crown and slightly overhanging branches.

East Asian Cherry (Prunus serrulata) varieties bloom from April to May. The classic varieties are ‘Kazart’ (dark pink, double flowered, hardy), ‘Kiku-Shidare-Sakura’ (light pink, double flowered, the best known hanging variety), ‘Amanogawa’ (light pink, semi-double flowered, fragrant, grows narrow and upright), ‘Pink Perfection’ (pink, double flowered, flowers abundantly), ‘Shirotae’ (white, single or semi-double flowered, with a broad body and horizontal branches), ‘Tai Haku’ (white, single flowered), ‘Shirofugen’ (first pink, then white, double flowered, blooms from May to June, flowers grow in in hanging clusters).


When to plant – spring or autumn. Plant ornamental cherry trees in a sunny place. This promotes flowering and brightly coloured leaves in the fall.

Sakuras require permeable, humus-rich soil. The trees like slightly calcareous soil, and react badly to heavy, wet soil. Dig the hole for planting twice the size of the root ball. Mix the soil with compost and fertiliser. Pour a little enriched soil into the hole. Remove the plant from its container and plant it as deeply as it previously lay in the container. Do not cover the rootstock with soil.

Drive a round pole into the soil next to the root ball in order to provide the cherry tree with firm support. Position it so that it does not lean into the tree’s crown. Then fill the hole with soil all around. Push it down gently. Finally, water the plant abundantly. Attach the stem of the seedling to the supporting pole.


If the weather is dry, the young plant will need watering. Cover the soil around the roots with bark mulch or plant other plants on top of it. Ornamental cherry trees can be grown together with a variety spring flowers – flowering bulbs, such as yellow or white daffodils, tulips of all colours, blue scillas and glory-of-the-snow. However, when considering including ornamental cherry trees into your garden’s composition, you must be careful. Often colours that may initially seem complementary actually create unnecessary clashing and as a result none of the plants in the composition stand out and the overall view becomes chaotic.

Fertilise your ornamental cherry trees with organic fertiliser and compost. Remove dry branches, or branches that grow inwards, or across. Remove all wild shoots from the rootstock of all grafted varieties.

Spread dry compost or leaves over the root area so that the trees overwinter better.

Ornamental cherry trees can be attacked by the larvae of various moths (odonestis pruni, ermine moths, lappet moths, tortrix moths). As soon as you notice them spray the larvae with Bacillus thuringiensis. All damaged branches must be cut out. If the infestation is extensive, spray with a suitable insecticide.

Thanks to the gardeners’ love and care, the well-wintered, gentle sakuras have survived the harsh winters of Northern Latvia and delight visitors each spring with their light pink flowers.