I don't usually go around tearing off sprigs of park trees myself, so I owe these studies, probably, to some enterprising child who was at first entranced with her toy, then got bored of carrying it around and left it stuck in a flower-bed.
Cherry blossoms –
of years past.
(Bashō, tr. Lucien Stryk, with thanks to such stuff)
This is Prunus 'Accolade', and is the earliest cherry to show in spring, with the minor exception of the sparse all-winter floriage of winter cherry (Prunus subhirtella 'Autumnalis'). Winter cherry is in fact one of the parents of Prunus 'Accolade'; the other is the hardy N. Japanese Sargent Cherry (Prunus sargentii), which is also grown here but has single, not double, petals.
OK, (says the imaginary student who is always just one step behind me) that's all very well, I'm not worried about confusing this with winter cherry, but since the plum-blossom is already in flower, how can I tell the difference between plum-blossom and cherry-blossom? The answer is here:
Multiple cherry blossoms arise from a single bud, and at the base of the raceme of pedicels you can see prominent scales, often red or green. By contrast, plum-blossom usually arises singly (though sometimes you'll find up to three from the same bud), and it has either no scales or extremely small ones. (I really write these things because it takes me so long to get them clear in my own head.)