Having been a hanami enthusiast in Finland and elsewhere for years, I could not have been happier to learn that the cherry blossom is a big deal in DC. The tradition dates back to 1912, when Japan gave 3,000 cherry trees as a gift to the United States to celebrate the nations’ friendship. Another 3,800 trees were donated in 1965. These trees were planted around the Tidal Basin, East Potomac Park, and on the grounds of the Washington Monument. Each spring, over a million people come to see them bloom.
There was still snow on the ground when I familiarized myself with the bloom statistics and started to check the bloom forecast almost daily. After weeks of waiting, the peak bloom occurred this year on April 10, only 11 days after the last snowfall! During the past 30 years the peak bloom has occured this late only twice. The record is from 1958, though, when the peak bloom happened only on April 18. The earliest peak bloom was on March 15, 1990.
A Finnish friend of mine was extremely lucky with the timing of her visit to DC: She landed exactly on the day of the peak bloom. We spent most of her stay cycling around the super sunny and warm city and viewing the flowers. Here’s a glimpse of what we saw:
Like the hawk-eyed readers surely noticed, the last photo is actually of magnolias. For some reason the magnolia blossom is not as famous as the cherry blossom, but if you ask me, that is pretty sweet, too.
After five days of summery weather, it was raining heavily and it was (literally) freezing cold on Tuesday. Now the sun is back, but the city is green rather than pink all of a sudden, as most of the petals are on the ground. This is a classic example of how quickly the bloom can be over, and exactly the reason why the “luminous and beautiful yet fleeting and ephemeral” cherry blossom has become a metaphor for life itself. Make the most out of it while it lasts!