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The Sakura Obsession: The Incredible Story of the Plant Hunter Who Saved Japan's Cherry Blossoms

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The remarkable 1,200-year history of the Japanese cherry blossom tree--and how it was saved from extinction by an English gardener. Collingwood "Cherry" Ingram first fell in love with the sakura, or cherry tree, when he visited Japan on his honeymoon in 1907. So taken with the plant, he brought back hundreds of cuttings with him to England, where he created a garden of cher The remarkable 1,200-year history of the Japanese cherry blossom tree--and how it was saved from extinction by an English gardener. Collingwood "Cherry" Ingram first fell in love with the sakura, or cherry tree, when he visited Japan on his honeymoon in 1907. So taken with the plant, he brought back hundreds of cuttings with him to England, where he created a garden of cherry varieties. In 1926, he learned that the Great White Cherry had become extinct in Japan. Six years later, he buried a living cutting from his own collection in a potato and repatriated it via the Trans-Siberian Express. In the years that followed, Ingram sent more than 100 varieties of cherry tree to new homes around the globe, from Auckland to Washington. As much a history of the cherry blossom in Japan as it is the story of one remarkable man, the narrative follows the flower from its adoption as a national symbol in 794, through its use as an emblem of imperialism in the 1930s, to the present-day worldwide obsession with forecasting the exact moment of the trees' flowering.


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The remarkable 1,200-year history of the Japanese cherry blossom tree--and how it was saved from extinction by an English gardener. Collingwood "Cherry" Ingram first fell in love with the sakura, or cherry tree, when he visited Japan on his honeymoon in 1907. So taken with the plant, he brought back hundreds of cuttings with him to England, where he created a garden of cher The remarkable 1,200-year history of the Japanese cherry blossom tree--and how it was saved from extinction by an English gardener. Collingwood "Cherry" Ingram first fell in love with the sakura, or cherry tree, when he visited Japan on his honeymoon in 1907. So taken with the plant, he brought back hundreds of cuttings with him to England, where he created a garden of cherry varieties. In 1926, he learned that the Great White Cherry had become extinct in Japan. Six years later, he buried a living cutting from his own collection in a potato and repatriated it via the Trans-Siberian Express. In the years that followed, Ingram sent more than 100 varieties of cherry tree to new homes around the globe, from Auckland to Washington. As much a history of the cherry blossom in Japan as it is the story of one remarkable man, the narrative follows the flower from its adoption as a national symbol in 794, through its use as an emblem of imperialism in the 1930s, to the present-day worldwide obsession with forecasting the exact moment of the trees' flowering.

30 review for The Sakura Obsession: The Incredible Story of the Plant Hunter Who Saved Japan's Cherry Blossoms

  1. 4 out of 5

    Vivek Tejuja

    One should always get out of their comfort zone and try things they say. Different things. For me reading something which I wouldn't otherwise is radical enough. I mean, this book intrigued me, and I just had to read it to know more. I am so glad I did. To experience a different culture (which of course I have through other reads), but also knowing about the Cherry Blossom and how it came to be saved was a brilliant experience. The story starts in 1907, when Collingwood "Cherry" Ingram fell in lo One should always get out of their comfort zone and try things they say. Different things. For me reading something which I wouldn't otherwise is radical enough. I mean, this book intrigued me, and I just had to read it to know more. I am so glad I did. To experience a different culture (which of course I have through other reads), but also knowing about the Cherry Blossom and how it came to be saved was a brilliant experience. The story starts in 1907, when Collingwood "Cherry" Ingram fell in love with the sakura or the cherry tree, as he was visiting Japan on his honeymoon. He was taken in with the tree to such an extent that he couldn't help but bring back hundreds of cuttings back to England, where he literally grew them, creating a garden of cherry varieties. In fact, in 1926 when he learned that the cherry tree was extinct in Japan, he sent a cutting of his own through the Trans-Siberian express. Not only that, Ingram also ensured that cuttings were sent to other parts of the world, where it was conducive to grow the specimen. This in short is what the book is about. However, there is so much more to it. Abe writes elegantly, and not only that - the research is spot on - with photographs, details, linking of other events, and personal perspectives. At times, I also felt that I was actually reading a historical novel, it is so well-written. The Sakura Obsession is what it is because Abe understands Ingram's motivations, his complex nature - the oddity and the gentleness and that's what makes this book so unique and refreshing. The Sakura Obsession tells a story that most people aren't aware of - of how it took one man to save blossoms people enjoy over the world and are in awe of. I am only too glad that I got out of my comfort zone and read this one.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Bell

    I found this book very engaging and informative. I think it did a great job of introducing many of the cherry varieties and Mr. Ingrams passion for them without being too technical or verbose. I very much enjoyed learning of the many varieties of cherries as much as the history of their cultivation and their symbolic meaning for Japan and the world. I appreciated the shorter, bite sized chapters and the many photographs and illustrations. I felt they helped me grasp the aesthetics that Ingram an I found this book very engaging and informative. I think it did a great job of introducing many of the cherry varieties and Mr. Ingrams passion for them without being too technical or verbose. I very much enjoyed learning of the many varieties of cherries as much as the history of their cultivation and their symbolic meaning for Japan and the world. I appreciated the shorter, bite sized chapters and the many photographs and illustrations. I felt they helped me grasp the aesthetics that Ingram and others saw in specific cherries and it was enjoyable to see how my tastes compared with theirs.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Onceinabluemoon

    As an avid gardener, ok obsessive, who had to seek out flowering cherry trees within a hundred mile radius I loved this book! But, this book is far more than gardening, it’s Japanese history, and sadly my beloved cherry trees are forever linked to the fleeting lives of youth in war. Such a contrast from beauty to death, love books that teach me new things, but not sure I like what I learned ...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Iryna Paprotska

    The Sakura Obsession by Naoko Abe is a history of the Japanese cherry blossom tree and the man who obsessively studied and cultivated them, Collingwood Ingram. I think it is a very special kind of book. This is all in one: a personal story, a history lesson, a culture overview and a complicated and compelling life of pure dedication. I believe that the author made a tremendous job building a high-level picture of the world. World history and aspects of different times, the impact of small and big The Sakura Obsession by Naoko Abe is a history of the Japanese cherry blossom tree and the man who obsessively studied and cultivated them, Collingwood Ingram. I think it is a very special kind of book. This is all in one: a personal story, a history lesson, a culture overview and a complicated and compelling life of pure dedication. I believe that the author made a tremendous job building a high-level picture of the world. World history and aspects of different times, the impact of small and big events on the world in general and the cherry tree in specifics. And Ingram was living as a part of that history. He fell in love with the tree during his first visit to Japan. And even though his original calling was studying birds, he later chose the cherry tree and became obsessed with it. “His methods required knowledge of plant physiology, nimble fingers and a degree of dexterity that came from years of practice.” Abe wrote. Just the way Ingram was talking about the cherry tree is impressive: “A moon of unsurpassable brilliance flooded the silent landscape with a cruel glare of greenish light, which traced sharp inky shadows of the trees on the rounded white folds. The snow crystals caught and reflected the moonlight upon a myriad facets until I appeared to be walking in a world of sparkling diamonds. The frightful stillness of the woodland at midnight was almost startling – everything seemed to be frost-bound and nerveless. Even the icy air seemed frozen into immobility. The crisp crunch of my footfall appeared to be an unpardonable intrusion, while the scars they made upon the smooth field of scintillating white seemed a positive sacrilege.” Later on, he will be one of the key keepers of knowledge around cherry trees and will publish work that lists different varieties of cherry blossom trees, Which is still a significant work in the world of gardeners and cherry tree lovers around the world. Also, Abe writes elegantly so that you can feel the culture even in the words and the flow of thought. The book is a great reflection of the culture of Japan, specifically when it comes to the symbolics of the cherry blossom. You can feel the history of a tree. A tree that was first cared for by a lowing nation then was almost lost due to big natural disasters, then became a war flower, a kamikaze flower, and then a flower of hope and peace, and freedom. The way it is all described is so well written it almost feels like a novel. “The cherry blossom was ephemeral, like life itself,” it says. “In the snowy mountains of Gifu Prefecture in central Japan, an impassioned gardener explained how he and his colleagues were keeping alive a 1,500-year-old tree, the world’s second-oldest cherry.” And this is all a representation of their dedication to a cherry blossom tree. While consuming the book many small and more complex feelings and thoughts came into my mind. Like: - That being proud can get your best treasures lost in time - That real beauty requires a tremendous amount of effort from someone, but it also requires a lot of friends and cooperation - That, no matter what, but the impact of such level, such an obsession and results could be only achieved by a wealthy person, who is not thinking daily about food and where to the get the money from - That losing respect and freedom after having it for granted can be devastating and take away all love from a person - That war is similarly ugly in all areas of the word - That a word "sakura" is actually pronounced with the stress on the 2nd syllabus in English:) And many other things. And I thank the author greatly for it.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Bookworm

    It was cherry blossom season not too long ago so I was excited to learn more about this. Other than the beautiful pictures and that they tend to be associated with Japan (but actually have a wide distribution in the Northern Hemisphere), I was intrigued to learn more. Abe takes the reader through a long history of the cherry blossom and of Collingwood Ingram, who helped save cherry blossoms. Plus the symbolism and history of cherry blossoms, the history, its associations with Japan and Japanese p It was cherry blossom season not too long ago so I was excited to learn more about this. Other than the beautiful pictures and that they tend to be associated with Japan (but actually have a wide distribution in the Northern Hemisphere), I was intrigued to learn more. Abe takes the reader through a long history of the cherry blossom and of Collingwood Ingram, who helped save cherry blossoms. Plus the symbolism and history of cherry blossoms, the history, its associations with Japan and Japanese people and their history and culture, etc. I'm no expert but I wouldn't be surprised if there would be people who point to this as a good book to learn everything you ever wanted to know about cherry blossoms. That said: the book wasn't for me. I felt overall it got too deep into the weeds and would, overall, be good for someone who has a specific interest in cherry blossoms or its role in Japanese culture, society and history. But a lot of people enjoyed it, so maybe it was just not a match for me as a reader. Library borrow was best for me.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Read with Jules

    🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 REVIEW The Sakura Obsession by Naoko Abe is a history of the Japanese cherry blossom tree and the man who obsessively studied them. Collingwood Ingram discovers cherries on his first visit to Japan. He spent the rest of his life growing cherries at his home in England and sending cuttings of the trees around the world to ensure everyone could enjoy the beauty of trees. He eventually returned an extinct variation of the tree to Japan. Cherry blossom trees are one of my favorite things and th 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 REVIEW The Sakura Obsession by Naoko Abe is a history of the Japanese cherry blossom tree and the man who obsessively studied them. Collingwood Ingram discovers cherries on his first visit to Japan. He spent the rest of his life growing cherries at his home in England and sending cuttings of the trees around the world to ensure everyone could enjoy the beauty of trees. He eventually returned an extinct variation of the tree to Japan. Cherry blossom trees are one of my favorite things and this is my favorite time of the year when the cherries are blooming, so it was fitting that I read this book now. While the book covers Ingram’s life, it is also an in-depth history of cherries and it's importance in Japan. I loved learning about the history of something I love so much. This introduction to Japanese history has inspired me to do more research about the country’s history.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Anne Walters custer

    This is a fascinating topic for a book and taught me about a cross-cultural horticultural history that I knew little about. However the story gets a bit too into the weeds during the middle section, making it more interesting for the specialist than the general reader. The most fascinating parts centered on World War II and the Japanese "cherry tree ideology" and broader historical context. Overall, this would have made a perfect New Yorker-style article, but was a bit too much for 300 pages of This is a fascinating topic for a book and taught me about a cross-cultural horticultural history that I knew little about. However the story gets a bit too into the weeds during the middle section, making it more interesting for the specialist than the general reader. The most fascinating parts centered on World War II and the Japanese "cherry tree ideology" and broader historical context. Overall, this would have made a perfect New Yorker-style article, but was a bit too much for 300 pages of a book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Lindsay

    Disclosure: I received this book through a Goodreads giveaway. This is a nonfiction book about Collingwood Ingram, the British botanist who managed to preserve more than 100 cherry tree varieties when some began to disappear from their native Japan. This book was well researched and faithful to its subject.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Paris23

    I was fortunate enough to receive a free copy of this book. While it was very informative, and I enjoyed the many different stories, I found that it jumped around a lot, and I found myself confused at a couple points. Overall, though, I really enjoyed this book!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Taran

    I liked this book! The writing was very eloquent and the narrative was told beautifully. The author mixed interesting tid bits and personal information in very well.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    Well worth reading.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Linda

  13. 4 out of 5

    A. Trit

  14. 5 out of 5

    Taylor Rae

  15. 4 out of 5

    John Bradley

  16. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jennie Reeve

  18. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

  19. 4 out of 5

    Vasák Benedek

  20. 5 out of 5

    M

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alan Sanie

    The remarkable 1,200-year history of the Japanese cherry blossom tree—and how it was saved from extinction by an English gardener. Collingwood "Cherry" Ingram first fell in love with the sakura, or cherry tree, when he visited Japan on his honeymoon in 1907. So taken with the plant, he brought back hundreds of cuttings with him to England, where he created a garden of cherry varieties. In 1926, he learned that the Great White Cherry had become extinct in Japan. Six years later, he buried a living The remarkable 1,200-year history of the Japanese cherry blossom tree—and how it was saved from extinction by an English gardener. Collingwood "Cherry" Ingram first fell in love with the sakura, or cherry tree, when he visited Japan on his honeymoon in 1907. So taken with the plant, he brought back hundreds of cuttings with him to England, where he created a garden of cherry varieties. In 1926, he learned that the Great White Cherry had become extinct in Japan. Six years later, he buried a living cutting from his own collection in a potato and repatriated it via the Trans-Siberian Express. In the years that followed, Ingram sent more than 100 varieties of cherry tree to new homes around the globe, from Auckland to Washington. As much a history of the cherry blossom in Japan as it is the story of one remarkable man, the narrative follows the flower from its adoption as a national symbol in 794, through its use as an emblem of imperialism in the 1930s, to the...

  22. 5 out of 5

    Robert Benson

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Hu

  24. 5 out of 5

    Gabriella Demczuk

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jessica King

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

  27. 5 out of 5

    Laurie

  28. 5 out of 5

    Atulaa Krishnamurthy

  29. 4 out of 5

    Heidi

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jim Mantana

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