About our National Collection
Keele University has been planted with flowering cherries since the first ornamental grounds were laid out in the late 1940s. Since then various flowering cherries have been added around the campus to the extent that springtime on the campus has become synonymous with cherry blossom. This is now one of the defining features of the campus.
Some of the older cherries have declined over the last decade and it was decided to broaden the collection while maintaining this visual feature. This was aided by Chris Sanders who was instrumental in introducing to Britain a number of new cultivars not yet in commercial production.
With the historical association of Keele with cherries, and with the desire to build the arboretum into an educational/scientific resource, the natural progression was to acquire unusual varieties of cherry. Since we have the room to support a large collection (Keele has the largest contiguous campus in Europe) and have been systematically adding new taxa, this led to the desire to seek National Collection status in order to make the collection more available to others.
Currently we have around 240 species and varieties. Many of the trees have only been planted since 2009 so are still quite small; a few are in nursery beds and have yet to be planted out. We cannot claim to have displays matching those of the Hanami flower festivals in Japan but, as they mature, the cherries are looking better and better!
In March 2012 our collection was awarded National Collection status by Plant Heritage. Only 7 other universities hold National Collections and most of these are in the Russell group, putting us in very good company!
The Collection was officially opened on 30th April 2014 by Professors Philip Davies and Pat Bailey.
L to R: Pat Bailey, Dave Emley, Peter Thomas, Philip Davies
We are particularly grateful to Keele Alumni who, in memory of John Ivinson (1963-1967), funded many of these trees and to Professor Philip Davies for his major contribution. We are also grateful Chris Sanders who advised on and sourced the majority of these trees. A biography of Chris is available here.