Cherry Blossom Report 2017
Cherry Blossom Report 2017
Tidal Basin, Washington, DC
Washington has experienced some unexpected disturbances over the past year that have thrown things off balance, and the weather was no exception to this trend. We experienced a false spring in late February that caused the blooming process of many plants and trees to begin, only to be hit with a deep freeze that was seasonally appropriate but damaging to delicate buds.
The early-spring blooming of the hundreds of cherries clustered around the Tidal Basin is always a source of much anticipation and news headlines, but this year’s hype started early and brought drama. First, the forecasted “peak bloom” date was moved drastically forward in light of early warming temperatures, but then, as cold creeped back in, was edged back along with some foreboding news: suddenly the cherry blossoms were in danger. After two nights of a deep frost followed by a light snowstorm, some headlines warned that half of the blossoms may have been “killed.” I remained hopeful and awaited the warmer temperatures to advance and prove the detractors wrong.
After all the confusion, this past weekend was finally determined to be the official peak bloom date, so I strapped on my camera and headed into the madness. As the sea of tourists carried me across 14th Street to my favorite starting point of a small grove of cherries in the shadow of the Washington Monument, I could see that the headlines were partly true. The trees had eventually bloomed all the way, and were lovely, but clearly lacking that extra fullness that gives them a fluffy, cloud-like appearance.
If the collective effect of the trees en masse was slightly less stunning overall, the discovery of a random tree blooming brighter than the rest was all the more magical and rewarding. There were plenty of exceptions to the half-bloom disease, and we were not without those random bursts of bright pink trees amidst the more common white varieties. The sweet aroma that the trees give off still wafted over me whenever I stepped off the sidewalk into one of the small groves pocketed along the Tidal Basin.
The best part was that the half-hearted blooming did not seem to make much difference to the thousands who journeyed from miles around to bask in the cherry glow. There was a collective buzz of excitement and positivity radiating through the blooming trees, just as there is any other year. Onlookers, spellbound by the abundance of floral beauty on display and coaxed into a relaxed state, gathered under the trees and socialized happily. It is really fascinating to see the effect that this annual bloom has on people when they visit in person.
If I was not a Washingtonian who has seen years of jaw-dropping floral displays, perhaps this year’s slightly diminished bloom wouldn’t seem sub-par. I must admit, thought, that any initial disappointment was dissolved by the energy of the crowds. And in a few weeks, cherry lovers can look forward to a second wave of blooms from the deeper pink, multi-petaled Kwanzan cherry trees, which were luckily unaffected by the damaging false start.