Hanami, the Cherry Blossom Season
Experience the fleeting beauty of blooming Japanese cherry blossoms at this annual spring festival.
Mon Mar 29 2010
Now that spring has finally sprung, you can stop buying those $6 bodega carnations that die after three days and scope some living flora. This week marks the beginning of hanami—the ancient Japanese tradition of cherry blossom viewing—at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. The monthlong event, which kicks off Saturday 3, is Brooklyn’s biggest rite of spring, according to Mark Fisher, the BBG’s director of horticulture. Though 42 species are on display (it’s the most diverse collection anywhere outside of Japan), no one variety blooms continuously for more than ten days. Can’t tell the 'Taihaku’ apart from the 'Taki-Nioi’? (Those are two types of cherry blossom—if you didn’t know that, we rest our case.) Fisher gives us the lowdown on the best blooms to look for from week to week. Keep in mind that these are subject to change; Fisher cautions that “temperature, precipitation and variations with the weather will contribute to these trees flowering earlier or later, as well as how long the blossoms will linger.” (Mother Nature is so fickle.) If you’d rather not leave your visit to chance, track your favorite blossoms through CherryWatch (bbg.org/exp/cherries/map), which offers daily garden updates and a map of where to find the buds du jour.
You’ll find the Prunus subhirtella 'Autumnalis’ in front of the BBG’s administration building on Washington Avenue; it’s one of the first trees to put forth flowers. Fisher explains that it’s recognizable because of its bright pink, one-inch blooms. “You’ll also see the beautiful, dark-colored twigs and branches of the cherry tree,” he says. [It has a] very light and fluffy look.”
The Prunus subhirtella 'Pendula’—also known as the Weeping Higan cherry—will be dramatically reflected in the water of the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, according to Fisher (though he does note that there are a couple of large specimens on the north end of Cherry Walk that are also worth checking out). “Their delicate, pink petals are displayed on weeping branches that blow in the wind, [forming] a waterfall into the Japanese Garden pond,” he says.
Additional bursts of pink in various shades will be blooming along Cherry Walk, the path that runs east of Cherry Hill and behind the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden. Among the cherries that may be in bloom this week is the Prunus avium 'Plena’; Fisher praises the tree’s “drooping double white flowers.” You can find it within the Plant Family Collection, just west of the Palm House entrance.
APRIL 25--MAY 2
The month caps off with the bountiful Prunus serrulata 'Kanzan,’ the almost-magenta blossom that people most often think of when they picture cherry trees. “These fully double, one-inch-across flowers—born in clusters of six—will be in full bloom,” Fisher says. You’ll find the flowers at the Osborne Garden, Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, Herb Garden and Cherry Walk, but they’re best observed on Cherry Esplanade. “It has the most dramatic display, with more than 100 magnificent flowering trees,” says Fisher.
The BBG will offer free guided tours on Saturdays and Sundays at 1pm, but the best way to immerse yourself in Japanese youth culture, cosplay and J-pop is the 29th annual Sakura Matsuri festival (May 1 10am--6pm; May 2 10am--7pm; $10--$15). Model your kimonos, gothic Lolita dresses and Harajuku-inspired fashion—or just gape at those who dare—in the Sakura J-Lounge, and hang out with manga artists like Misako Rocks. Attendees can also meet Maki Kaji (the “godfather of Sudoku”), participate in an “Iron Cosplay” contest, watch the taiko-drumming/rhythmic-tap-dancing COBU (founded by performers from Stomp), and bop along to Japanese gypsy rock band Kagero and J-pop favorite happyfunsmile. Kawaii!