Typology of British Cherry Blossom
Author: Vale, Sam
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Published May 2019
130 x 185 mm 256 pages
Hardback clothbound, foil debossed front and spine
Printed in a limited edition of 323 copies, on oldmill archival paper
There are 323 indiginous cherry trees to the UK and so we are printing 323 copies of this book. Each will include a cherry blossom petal, dried and pressed. With 323 varieties, each book will be a unique – signed and numbered by Sam Vale
Every year people around the world celebrate the arrival of spring with the blooming of the cherry blossom.
The Japanese tradition of hanami, gathering in great numbers underneath the flowering trees, dates back to the eight century and even today it has its own cherry blossom forecast to predict when the flowers will open.
Kent also has a long association with cherries. The cultivation of the county’s famous cherry orchards under the orders of Henry VIII, along with other fruit, was the reason why the county became known as The Garden of England.
Now for the first time, images of all 323 UK varieties of the fruit’s white flowers have been recorded. Canterbury Christ Church University academic and artist, Dr Sam Vale, has produced the complete collection of images that catalogues all the varieties in a new book.
Complete and comprehensive records of cherry blossom have historically been difficult to reproduce in books as the delicate flowers are considered too uniform for traditional illustration to capture the slight differences between varieties.
Sam, a Senior Lecturer in the University’s School of Media, Art and Design, explained: “A popular and well-recorded form of botany, the scientific study of plants, has been practised for over 200 years in books and catalogues. Pomology is the study of fruit trees, examining the cultivation of different and related varieties of tree, with the aim of improving and developing attributes such as taste, longevity and yield of popular fruits.
“Historically, pomological books were drawn up to differentiate types of fruit using a classification process that can be used to identify different varieties and types. These beautifully and carefully illustrated books would include diagrams of the fruit, the leaves, branches and commonly the blossoms (particularly in apples, peaches and plums). In examining these historical sources, it came to my attention that the cherry, a tree that is revered for its blossom, was mainly represented by drawings of the fruit and leaves, rarely its delicate blossom. After some careful investigation, I discovered that cherry blossom was seldomly recorded because it was considered too uniform to recognise differences, and traditional illustration could not reveal the nuances and insignificant details that distinguished between cherry blossoms.”
Using photography Sam has been able to accurately record and showcase the flowers’ subtle yet distinct differences to fill this void in the history and study of the cherry blossom.
Sam was granted access to the National Fruit Collection, at Brogdale in Kent. This collection was designed to keep a pair of each variety of cherry available in the United Kingdom, with the aim of keeping an accurate record for scientific purposes and to retain some of the heritage variety that have fallen out of favour.
Dr Matthew Ordidge, Scientific Curator for the National Fruit Collection, based at the University of Reading, said: “As a genetic resource collection, we make a wide range of material available to users, mainly graftwood and fruit samples, as well as leaves for analysis and pollen for breeding. I would have to say that Sam’s study of the collection was one of the more eclectic uses, and it is relatively rare for anybody to study the flowers on cherry in such fine detail. We were very pleased that the collection could be available to make this work possible.”
Sam added: “Collecting is driven by two opposing ideas, the similarities of the items being acquired which connect under a scheme devised by the collector, for example stamps, clocks or books. Yet, simultaneously, the objects within the collection need to also have differences to distinguish them for each other and hold the interest of the collector. The joy of collecting is driven by noticing what is overlooked and cherishing the connected items for their individual characteristics. In the presentation of this collection it is hoped that the beautiful qualities and patterns of the project can come to the fore and demonstrate the value of looking again at things that might at first seem indistinguishable.
Copies of the book will be donated to reference libraries and collections.
Sam’s book, A Typology of British Cherry Blossom: Containing Coloured Images of the Most Esteemed National Fruit Collection at Brogdale will be published in May 2019 by GOST. Each book will include a unique pressed, dried cherry blossom petal.