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This week on Tea & Tattle, I’m joined by the author and journalist Naoko Abe, to discuss Naoko’s book, ‘Cherry’ Ingram: The Englishman Who Saved Japan’s Blossoms.

Originally from Japan, although now living in London, cherry blossoms have always played a significant role in Naoko’s life, but it wasn’t until she moved to the UK that Naoko saw such a wide variety of ornamental cherry trees blossoming throughout the springtime. Intrigued to find out more about these beautiful blossoms, Naoko stumbled on the story of Collingwood Ingram, an Englishman who was born in 1880 and was nicknamed ‘Cherry’ Ingram for his passion for Japan’s cherry trees and the extensive collection of trees he grew at his home in Kent.

Ingram lived until he was 100 years old, witnessing both world wars, and leading a fascinating life marked by his love for nature, particularly cherry trees. On a visit to Japan in the 1920s, Cherry Ingram was alarmed by the lack of cherry tree diversity throughout the country. Only one type of cloned cherry tree variety, that bloomed and faded very quickly, was being planted throughout Japan, with other varieties in danger of dying out. Cherry Ingram particularly noticed the absence of one of his favourites: the Taihaku cherry tree - a beautiful tree with large white blossoms. He made it his mission to return this tree to its native land, and painstakingly sent back cuttings from his own Taihaku tree that grew in his garden.

Every spring in the UK, and indeed around the world, we witness Collingwood Ingram’s incredible legacy in the beautiful cherry trees that bloom all around us. I was completely absorbed by Naoko’s biography of Ingram, which appropriately I read in the spring, and I had a fabulous time chatting to her about Ingram’s role in preserving the diversity of cherry trees, as well as how the symbolic nature of cherry blossoms shifted in Japan in the lead up to the second world war, playing a significant role in the country’s political propaganda and ideology.

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