Cherry blossom festivals are soon to get underway all over the northern hemisphere. In some places they are small events, in others much bigger affairs. The more cherry trees in an urban area often denotes the likelihood of a festival. In essence, the purpose of these festivals, adopted from Japanese culture, is to celebrate feelings of new beginnings and joy that this period of intense, transient beauty evokes. There is no denying, when an area full of blossoms bloom, it is rather super. What better way to pass some time in the coming months, than to lie back under the blossom and meditate on the important things in life.
The flower of all species in the genus Prunus, of which there are over 400, are often referred to as having cherry blossom. But this group includes not just cherry species but also almond, apricot, peach and plum. The Flowering Cherries tend to refer to a handful of species that have been chosen for their ornamental value. These species have either been developed from naturally occurring varieties, hybrids or are cultivars. The trees we find growing in our urban streets are generally cultivars, purposely chosen for the quality of their blossom or bark. Other cultivars are grown solely for their fruit and are more likely to be found on fruit farms than in cities. Wild cherries and plums can also be very beautiful, but often lack the reliability, variation and pop of the cultivars, so are generally not planted as urban street trees.
There is a whole lingo around Cherry Blossom time that plays a big part in the festivals. Most of it is from Japan, as often these events are (or were originally) centred around Japanese immigrant communities in the West. Appropriated Japanese words include: Sakura, which means cherry blossom and in particular the flowers of Prunus serrulata or Japanese Cherry and its many cultivars; Hanami, which is the name for the activity of viewing the blossom; and Haiku, which is a Japanese poem, not dissimilar to a Tweet often utilised to summarise feelings of Sakura and Hanami. The english language has added Blossom Watch which refers to the communal activity of observing and recording flowering times and locations of species.
To publicise a cherry blossom festival you need a website, and web design for plant-related pursuits is a particular interest of Plant Curator. So as a way to pictorially depict and list the bigger cherry blossom festivals of the Western world we show the home pages of the festival websites plus some of their vital stats. They are somewhat generic in appearance, but covering a homepage with blossom can’t be too wrong can it?
Washington DC National Cherry Blossom Festival, USA
Dates: March 20 – April 14
Trees: Approximately 3,750 cherry trees are on the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC. Most of the trees are Yoshino Cherry. Other species include Kwanzan Cherry, Akebono Cherry, Takesimensis Cherry, Usuzumi Cherry, Weeping Japanese Cherry, Sargent Cherry, Autumn Flowering Cherry, Fugenzo Cherry, Afterglow Cherry, Shirofugen Cherry and Okame Cherry.
Activities include: Pink Tie Party, Step into Spring with Joy, Japanese Teas, National Cherry Blossom Opening Ceremony.
Tag Line: “The nation’s greatest springtime celebration”
Vancouver BC Cherry Blossom Festival, Canada
Dates: April 3-28
Trees: In 1990 it was recorded that over 35,000 city trees were flowering plum and cherry trees. The mos common species were Prunus serrulata ‘Kwanzan’, the Kwanzan flowering cherry. (12.6 percent) and Prunus cerasifera, the Pissard plum. (12.4%). But over 400 other classifications of tree were recorded.
Tag line: “To sustain & renew Vancouver’s cherry tree heritage, while educating and actively engaging diverse communities in local arts and culture to celebrate the fragile beauty of the iconic Cherry Blossom.”
Activities include: Sakura Night, Plein-Air Blossom Painting, Haiku Invitational, Cherry Jam Downtown Concert, Sakura Days Japan Fair, Blossom Bollywood, Tree Talks & Walks, BC Blossom Watch Photo Contest, Cherry Blossom Picnic & Bike The Blossoms.
Macon International Cherry Blossom Festival, Georgia, USA
Dates: March 21 – 30
Trees: Over 300,000 Yoshino cherry trees
Activities include: Think Pink Car Painting, Cherry Blossom Bed Race, Lantern Lighting, Cherry Blossom Tea.
National California Cherry Blossom Festival, San Francisco, USA
Dates: April 12-13 & April 19-20
Activities include: Chanoyu – The Tea Ceremony, Grand Parade, Sanrio Hello Kitty, Japanese Music.