Welcome to my London cherry blossom top five, the definitive guide to the best cherry blossom viewing spots in the capital. Japan may be famous for its cherry blossom but here in London the cherry blossom is just as pretty if you know where to look. All you need is a guide to tell you where to go and when. And here it is!
No. 1: Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens gets its place at the top of the list because it’s got more blossom and more varieties than anywhere else in London. The famous cherry walk begins at the Rose Garden behind the Palm House with a great collection of Japanese cherries, including ‘Hatazakura’, with white single flowers, that originated from a tree grown in the Hakusan Shrine in Tokyo, the pink-blossomed Prunus ‘Kanzan’ and the Great White Cherry (Prunus ‘Taihaku’).
The walk continues via King William’s Temple and the Temperate House and ends with a formal avenue of fifteen pairs of chrysanthemum-flowered Prunus ‘Asano’.
No. 2: Regent’s Park
A good bet if you’re looking for some blossom in the centre of London is Regent’s Park, which offers a whole variety of cherry blossom experiences. For early blossom, there’s a beautiful grove of pink-blossomed trees at the south end of Avenue Gardens.
But the real glory comes later in the season when there’s cherry blossom all the way from the English Garden through Queen Mary’s Garden to the Jubilee gate and the Triton Fountain.
The avenue of cherry trees on either side of Chester Road was replanted in 2015 with new trees, a paler variety than previously called Sunset Boulevard. You can help preserve this avenue by sponsoring a cherry tree.
No. 3: Kensington Gardens
Kensington Gardens has a fine early-flowering grove of pink and white trees near the Lancaster Gate entrance.
And a perfect little grove of pink blossoming trees near the Albert Memorial on the East Albert Lawn. It’s a favourite hanami picnic spot for the Japan Society.
No.4: St James’s Park
St James’s Park has some lovely blossom but it’s individual trees that have impact rather than massed ranks. There’s a group of cherry trees near Storey’s Gate (in front of the Treasury building) and a beautiful little grove of four white cherry trees on the south side of the lake, plus a lovely tree by the lake at the Buckingham Palace end.
Joint No. 5: Alexandra Palace and Greenwich Park
I’ve put these in at joint number five because one is in North London and the other in South London, so you can pick the nearest.
Alexandra Palace has nearly thirty trees, with grass to sit on and fantastic views over London.
Greenwich Park has a lovely avenue of cherry blossom leading up to the rose garden at Ranger’s House (at the top of the hill, not far from the Observatory).
When to see cherry blossom in London
It’s always difficult to call the timing on cherry blossom. The season generally runs from late March to early May but precise timing for each location depends on the weather and the variety – some trees blossom early and some late. A cold spring can set the whole season back weeks, while early sunshine can bring the blossom out several weeks earlier than expected.
If you see very early blossom, in February or early March, chances are it’s plum not cherry. See my Plum v Cherry Blossom Guide to help you tell the difference.
As a guide, here’s how the season has looked over the last five years:
In 2013 the cherry blossom at Kew was at its best at the end of April.
In 2015 the first cherry blossom buds opened in in March, began to bloom at the beginning of April and peak blossom came towards the end of April. Late blossom in Greenwich Park and Kew Gardens appeared at the end of April.
In 2016 the blossom ran about a week behind 2015. The trees in St James’s Park were in full flower in mid April, the new trees on the cherry blossom avenue in Regents Park were out in late April and the cherry blossom avenue in Greenwich Park was in full bloom a week into May.
In 2017 the blossom was exceptionally early, about three or four weeks ahead of 2016. The last blossom left at Kew Gardens and Regent’s Park which I covered in my last post of April is now gone. The Greenwich Park cherry blossom avenue flowered in mid April, as did the little grove of trees near the Albert Memorial in Kensington gardens. The blossom at Alexandra Palace and St James’s Park flowered even earlier.
Final update: It’s the 1st of May and I’m officially declaring the cherry blossom season over for this year. So that’s it – join me in 2018 for another cherry blossom season!
The Cherry Blossom Murder
If you like cherry blossom, you might like my East-West fusion murder mystery, The Cherry Blossom Murder – Join expat Londoner Josie as she finds a body under the cherry blossom and tracks down a backstage killer in Tokyo. Available on Kindle or in paperback, it’s the first book in my Josie Clark in Japan mystery series.