top of page

The Plants Used in Our Garden: Why We Don't Have Cherry Blossoms

Close-up photograph of a purple leaf plum branch, adorned with delicate pink flowers against a backdrop of green leaves.
Purple leaf plum beginning to bloom.

One question we often receive is, "Does the Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix have cherry blossoms?"

The straightforward answer is no, we do not.

However, the reasoning behind this goes beyond Phoenix's hot and dry desert climate. It is rooted in the fundamental principles of Japanese gardening.

In the oldest book on Japanese gardening, Sakuteiki (作庭記, Records of Garden Making), it states that a designer must "make sure that your design harmonizes with the lie of the land, the shape of the pond and any other existing features. As you set out your garden, never forget how the site looked in its natural state." Authenticity in Japanese garden design involves using local trees, plants, and construction materials, not only for sustainability but also to create an atmosphere true to Japanese gardens and the desires of the Garden's visitors.

flowering almond flowers in full bloom in front of Musoan Tea House at the Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix. They are white with a soft gradation to pink in the center.
Flowering almond in front of Musoan.

For Japanese gardens in the Western world, the true challenge lies in creating an authentic Japanese garden experience that respects the local environment instead of idealizing an exotic fantasy of Japan. This requires thoughtful decision-making, especially when it comes to selecting plants suitable for a Japanese garden in a desert climate like ours. While we may lack traditional elements such as cherry blossoms, azaleas, and Japanese black pine, our designers and niwashi (gardeners) have carefully chosen plants that emulate the aesthetic and textures of Japanese garden plants while thriving in our unique desert environment.

In place of azaleas, we showcase the vibrant display of our indian hawthorn, with hundreds of pink flowers from March to April. Rather than cherry blossoms, we have ornamental pear trees blooming in late January, flowering almond and peach trees in February, and purple leaf plum in March (along with many more). By carefully selecting climate-adapted plant varieties, our Garden offers blooming periods that extend from late winter through summer, providing an ever-changing visual experience that aligns with the additional principles of seasonality in Japanese gardens.

Close-up  of bright pink peach blossoms set against a soft backdrop of green leaves.
Peach blossoms at the Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix.

It may also come as a surprise that cherry blossoms are not commonly found in traditional gardens in Japan, because they are not susceptible to pruning!

So, when you visit a Japanese garden near you, take a moment to appreciate any familiar plants that you might even have in your own backyard. Our Garden exemplifies how unique decisions and adaptations can lead to a captivating and authentic Japanese garden experience, even without cherry blossoms.

Full, white ornamental pear trees in bloom alongside a trickling waterfall at the Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix.
Ornamental pear in bloom. They are one of the first blooms to appear in the Garden every year.

1,048 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page