Cherry blossoms are just one of the many ways Mother Nature says that winter is over and spring has sprung. The Japanese believe that cherry blossoms are representations of hope and the beautiful promise of renewed life that each spring brings. The delicate flowers also serve as a reminder that life is precious and fragile, and thus, should be cherished.
Cherry blossoms grace the branches of cherry trees but for a fleeting moment. Blooming for only a week, sometimes even less, the Japanese celebrate the tree’s delicate flowers with Hanami (flower watching) parties. They gather under sakura cherry trees with picnics, family gatherings and reflect on the upcoming year.
2021 may be the perfect year to have a Hanami party of your own and celebrate the poignancy of the message imparted to us through the cherry tree’s delicate petals. There are many places throughout the United States to gaze upon the graceful blooms, two of which are right here in Texas.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
The Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden located in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is one of the most visited and oldest Japanese-inspired gardens outside Japan. Cherry Esplanade is a sprawling lawn lined with flowering cherry blossoms, which usually blooms at the end of April, making the Brooklyn Botanic Garden a perfect place to have a Hanami party.
The garden also features waterfalls, ponds, and gently rolling hills dotted with intriguing architectural details that enhance the garden’s beauty.
St. Louis, Missouri
If you visit the Missouri Botanic Garden during April, you will see flowering trees scattered across the 14-acres of the garden. Overwhelmingly, the most dramatic flowering cherry in this garden is the collection of over 40 weeping Higan cherry trees. Frilly pink flowers cover the long graceful branches of the Higan cherry.
To add to the Missouri Botanic Garden’s beauty and tranquility are the 40 Yoshino cherry trees that are covered in fragrant white flowers during April. A picnic under one of these trees would be a perfect place to reflect on the renewal of life.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C. heralds the start of spring and symbolizes the friendship between the United States and Japan. The original cherry trees were a gift from Japan in 1912, bathing the landscape of the Tidal Basin area in D.C. with a delicately graceful explosion of white and pink blossoms.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival typically hosts parades with marching bands, floats, large helium balloons and many outdoor activities. You can watch the cherry trees bloom on the Bloom Cam here (https://www.nps.gov/subjects/cherryblossom/cherry-blossom-cam.htm)
Every mid-March in Macon, Georgia, a plethora of delicate lacy pink and white blooms cover over 350,000 cherry trees. Macon’s Cherry Blossom Festival, which started as a 3-day small-town festival, has grown into a month long celebration with hundreds of activities ranging from wiener dog races and bed races to parades to nightly concerts to wine and cocktail tastings.
There is also a Cherry Blossom Royal Court featuring young princesses to legacy queens. They even have young princes of the Cherry Blossom Court.
In early April, the Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival of Philadelphia celebrates Japanese culture with events, demonstrations, and games from sushi-making classes to live performances to learning the art of flower arranging and taiko performances.
Celebrating the friendship between Japan and the United States since 1997, the festival started as a focus to increase the tree planting efforts of the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia has become a 9-day stunning display of spring celebration with over 15,000 in attendance.
Fort Worth, Texas
If you have not been to the Fort Worth Japanese Garden located within the Fort Worth Botanical Garden yet, it is well worth the trip even when the cherry trees are not blooming. Completion of the Japanese Garden happened in 1973. It offers a stunning strolling garden with winding paths through perfectly planned tranquil landscapes, around ponds, and over arched bridges.
The Garden consists of 7.5 acres filled with cherry trees, brilliant Japanese maples, magnolias, bamboo (have you seen the black bamboo?), and ponds home to over 1,200 Koi fish. The koi are quite entertaining as they rush to the surface of the water when people stroll by, hoping that they will toss out some Koi treats. Koi treats are available to purchase at the garden.
San Francisco, California
Herald as the oldest public Japanese garden in the United States, the Golden Gate Park Japanese Tea House and Garden originated in 1894 as a Japanese Village for the World’s Fair.
Guests to the garden are treated to calming sounds of water gently spilling over waterfalls and slowly meandering through a landscape dotted with azaleas, sweetly scented wisteria vines, lacy-leafed maple trees both in dwarf and tall specimens offering graceful canopies.
The addition of intriguing architectural features such as lanterns, bridges, and statues throughout the garden is also a hedge clipped in the form of Mt. Fuji paying tribute to Japan and the continued friendship between our two countries.
Overlooking White Rock Lake’s calm waters, the Dallas Arboretum is a sanctimonious escape within the city. The arboretum sprawls over 66 acres, exploding with color every spring. Their “Sounds of Spring” event is the perfect time to pack a picnic lunch and walk the garden.
You will be treated to gracefully alluring flowering trees and over 500,000 blooming spring flowers from more than 100 varieties of spring bulbs.
During the 6-week Sounds of Spring celebration, there will be cooking demonstrations, children’s activities, live music, and entertainment at the open-air pavilion, in addition to specially created topiaries on display throughout the garden. Six musically inspired topiaries depicting both musicians playing instruments and various instruments become center displays for guests to appreciate.
Belleville, New Jersey
Branch Brook Park, acclaimed as having the most extensive collection of cherry trees in a United States county park, is located in the North Ward of Newark with a portion of the park also located in Belleville Township.
The sprawling 360-acre park hosts more than 4,000 cherry trees that explode into a profusion of delicate cherry blossoms in hues from white to cotton candy pink every spring. Belleville’s cherry tree collection planted in 1927, which surpasses the famed Washington D.C. in both quantity and variety, draws over 10,000 people each day during the spring festival.
Cherry Blossoms Bring Hope
Spring brings the promise of a new and fresh beginning, renewed life, and hope. This list of places and festivals to experience cherry blossoms is a short list for both the United States and the world.
I encourage you to take an afternoon to relax and have a Hanami party under a blooming cherry tree and consider the possibilities and promise of renewed life, hope for a fresh start, and remembrance of the fragility that life can sometimes have. Be kind and share the good.