In Bloom: NYC “wakes up” with the official start of cherry blossom season
Send a seashell pink flare into the sky, for the weather of our erubescence is upon us.
The cherry blossom trees around the city have started to bloom, and the Brooklyn Botanical Garden has officially declared the start of its cherry blossom viewing season. So get yourself a Cosmo, turn the lights down low, throw the Air classic”Cherry blossom girl“, and let your mind wander the salmon-colored fields of Flushing Meadows Corona Park in the video below.
“I love this time of year,” said Jennifer Greenfeld, assistant commissioner of forestry, horticulture and natural resources for the city’s parks department. “I love when the city wakes up, and [now] he wakes up in more ways than one. This spring, the cherry trees are so meaningful to New Yorkers because it’s so symbolic to wake up after a long winter.”
There are over 100 varieties of ornamental cherry trees, but the three most common found in city parks are the Okame, which are usually the first to bloom around the last two weeks of March, and then the Yoshino. and the Kwanzan cherry trees, which will start blooming in April.
According to the Department of Parks, there are 6,700 cherry trees in city parks and more than 34,000 street cherry trees planted around the city (the highest concentration is in Queens, which has more than 15,000) . These street trees represent approximately 5% of the more than 700,000 street trees of all varieties in New York City.
Greenfeld said there is a long history of different types of cherry trees in New York, dating back to the 1700s, when cherry orchards were cultivated by Dutch colonial families like the Dyckman family. The Dyckman Farmhouse Museum in Inwood still houses a historic cherry tree growing there, which will begin to bloom in mid-April and produce small tart cherries in June.
But as for the popular ornamental cherry trees that bloom every spring, they were first brought to the United States from Japan in 1912, with many going to DC and some to Central Park, where they still stand today. Over the past century, Greenfeld said, more and more of these ornamental trees have been sent to New York by the Tokyo government to cement relations between the two cities.
As for their popularity, Greenfeld said it made perfect sense that people were so fascinated by them.
“It’s one of the only things that blooms this time of year,” she said. “They really make you think of spring. And they’re often planted en masse, like the masses of trees in Flushing Meadows Corona Park around the Unisphere, or in Riverside Park or along the Harlem River.”
The fact that they are only around for a very short time – the flowering cycle only lasts about two weeks, depending on temperature, rain and wind conditions – also adds to the elusive beauty.
“It’s almost like a little scavenger hunt – you have to find them and you have to find them fast,” Greenfeld said. “And you have to see them while they’re in full bloom. So I think something that’s short-lived is more valuable.”
With over 40,000 ornamental cherry trees spread across the city, there are obviously plenty of places to go to check them out (don’t sleep on the Roosevelt Island offering). But there’s no doubt that the Brooklyn Botanical Garden has become arguably the most popular destination for flamingo-colored flower tours each April.
“When the peak bloom happens, the cherry grove is like the number one spot for people,” said Rowan Blaik, vice president of horticulture at Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
The garden was literally made for this: when the Olmsted brothers began designing it in the 1910s, Blaik said they wanted the Esplanade to be “in line with the back of the Brooklyn Museum” as part of a massive “wide avenue” of trees. which would have connected the museum and the garden. The plans have been modified, but the cherry tree esplanade has always become one of the fundamental elements of the landscape.
In total, they now have more than 200 ornamental cherry trees in bloom on the cherry esplanade, made up of more than 20 varieties of trees, some of which date from the beginning of the 20th century.
“The Brooklyn Botanic Garden was also one of the first public gardens to also feature an authentic Japanese garden,” Blaik said. “So the connection with cherries, Japanese cherry cultivars, cherry blossoms, bonsai, it’s something that’s woven throughout. [our] the story.”
The month-long tradition of viewing cherry blossoms is called hanami (which literally means “blossom viewing”), and at BBG it usually culminates with the annual Sakura Matsuri festival. The festival will not take place this year due to the pandemic. related reasons, but they celebrate cherry season with extended morning and evening hoursand all-day performances on April 23, 30 and May 7.
While there’s no way to tell exactly when the blooms might peak, BBG tracks cherry blossom season on their Cherry Watch Page, so visitors can get an idea of when to visit. Even if you go early, you won’t be disappointed now that the flowering has started.
“These are magnificent trees,” Blaik said. “These are beautiful colors that are so much warmer than the colors we associate with winter. It’s those delicate pinks and whites. They bloom before the leaves bloom, and you see all the majesty of the tree in its blossoms. It’s like an explosion of colors when it happens. It really is the herald of spring.”
Gigi Altarejos, who has been snapping photos while taking nature walks around town for about a decade now, was thrilled to capture the initial bloom that happened last weekend at Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
“I walk around the parks on weekends and you can’t miss these beauties,” she said. “We only have two weeks to enjoy each variety, so I try to find time to go to the different parks.”
Altarejos offered some handy tips on where to spot the trees. After Okame petal fall, she noted that you can find the Yoshino variety in Hunters Point South Park, Sakura Park, Flushing Meadows at the Unisphere, and at the southern end of the Roosevelt Island Cherry Blossom Parkway.
Kwanzan, which are fluffy pink, can be found at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, the northern section of the Roosevelt Island Cherry Blossom Parkway, and Riverside Park.
“The Cherry Walk north of Riverside Park is a mix of Yoshino and Kwanzan,” she said. “There are also several trees along the walkway to the Peter Sharp Boathouse. Central Park’s cherry tree walk along the west side of the reservoir is also Kwanzan. And there are plenty of them in Green-Wood [in Brooklyn] and other cemeteries.
Greenfeld, the assistant commissioner of the Parks Department, added that there are native black cherry trees growing in New York’s forests and woods that “aren’t quite the same as flashy ornamental trees, but they grew there before we imported trees from Japan, and it’s great food for birds.”
You can check out some additional photos below of how things are currently looking in the city: