Cherry Trees Weather Weird Winter

The Jefferson Memorial is framed by a profusion of cherry blossoms in this photograph taken at the Tidal Basin last April.
The Jefferson Memorial is framed by a profusion of cherry blossoms in this photograph taken at the Tidal Basin last April. (By Manuel Balce Ceneta -- Associated Press)
By Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 9, 2007

Remember the balmy weather of December and January and the panic over the early blooming of Washington's cherry blossoms?

False alarm, government tree expert Rob DeFeo said yesterday.

There were cherry trees that did bloom in the crazy warmth of this crazy winter. But those trees were not THE trees.

DeFeo, the wry chief horticulturalist with the National Park Service, took to the microphones in a swanky District hotel to announce that the city's famed cherry blossoms, the ones that annually draw a million visitors and plenty of dollars, should bloom pretty much on schedule and peak the week of April 1.

"Barring the advent of an ice age or the rapid acceleration of global warming," DeFeo said, the pink and white blossoms of the hallowed 3,700 trees along the Tidal Basin should reach their most glorious around April 4.

Good old cherry blossoms, he said, "most reliable living specimens in the nation's capital."

Amen, said the organizers of the 95th National Cherry Blossom Festival, who joined DeFeo and D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty in the Mandarin Oriental hotel to announce that the annual festival will run from March 31 to April 15, at the start of the spring tourism season.

Opening day festivities will be March 31 at the National Building Museum. The cherry blossom parade will be April 14 along Constitution Avenue, followed by the Japanese street and arts festival along Pennsylvania Avenue. There will be 90 events in all, including fireworks April 7, and 200 cultural performances and demonstrations, said the festival's executive director, Diana M. Mayhew.

"As mayor of the District of Columbia, I couldn't be more thrilled to help kick off the events," said Fenty (D), who will preside over his first Cherry Blossom Festival as the city's chief executive. In the District, which reaps $150 million annually from out-of-town festival-goers, "hospitality is our big deal," he said. "It's our big industry."

Fenty took note of the festival's plan, for the second year, to have valet bicycle parking.

"As a cyclist myself, that is fantastic to leave your bike for free and having it left in a staffed area during the entire time of the festival," he said. "I'm telling you, as a cyclist, that's a really big deal, because that's a big worry: Where are you going to leave your bike?"

The festival honors the original gift in 1912 of 3,000 cherry trees to the United States from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo.

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