Cherry blossoms signal spring


Cherry blossoms frame the Washington Monument during the 2009 National Cherry Blossom Festival. (Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP )

On the cusp of April, the drabness of winter is replaced with the sudden appearance of clouds of blushed blossoms. Spring is here; there is no turning back.

The Japanese flowering cherries brighten a broad swath of parkland Washington, from Hains Point westward to the Washington Monument and beyond. But it is at the Tidal Basin where the cherry blossoms define the city’s famous floral carnival. From close up, the trees shelter their admirers; from afar, they form a pearly necklace around the basin.

For a few days in early spring, the scene provides the notion of civic perfection, an idyll set above the din of politics. The Jefferson Memorial, inspired by the Roman Pantheon, is as exotic as the trees themselves, and the basin is anything but natural, but the components come together to form something that is memorably picturesque.

Most of the trees are a variety called Yoshino, or Tokyo, cherry, with delicate blossoms of the faintest pink. Of the dozens of varieties of Japanese cherry trees, it is one of the finest. In time, an upright little Yoshino grows into a spreading, almost pendent ornamental tree. The same qualities that make it a treasure in its homeland abide here: It is natural but tamed, and the gentle asymmetry of its outline provides movement and drama. It is hard to think of another tree that would better it for flower power, scale and habit.

Other cherry trees produce luscious fruit. The Japanese flowering cherries produce a celebration. Almost a century old, the display continues to herald the spring and remind us of Washington’s beauty.

Adrian Higgins has been writing about the intersection of gardening and life for more than 25 years, and joined the Post in 1994. He is the author of several books, including the "Washington Post Garden Book" and "Chanticleer, a Pleasure Garden."
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