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Marvel at nature’s wonder

March 29, 2019
By JOYCE COMINGORE - Garden Club of Cape Coral ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

If you've a mind to wander this week, mosey on up to our nation's capital to view the glorious cherry blossoms. Along with the chrysanthemum, the cherry blossom is considered Japan's national flower. The Japanese cherry tree, Prunusa serrulata, called sakura, has many varieties, but those cultivated for ornamental use produce a small, unpalatable fruit; as for me, I love cherry pie. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I guess my stomach rules! There is a difference between a cherry tree and cherry blossom tree. Edible cherries generally come from Prunusa avium and Prunus cersus cultivars.

In 1912, Japan gave the United States 3,020 cherry blossom trees to celebrate our nation's friendship, replacing an earlier gift of 2,000 that had become diseased, then destroyed in 1910. The Tidal Basin shoreline in Washington, D.C., was lined with them and the first two planted were planted by the first lady, Helen Taft, and Viscountess Chinda. Later, in 1965, this gift was renewed with another 3,800 trees. America now has an annual celebration, the National Cherry Blossom Festival, to celebrate spring when they are in full bloom, what I call a display of nature's wonderful beauty.

Other U.S. cities now have annual cherry blossom festivals, or sakura matsuri. Van Nuys, California, in 1992 was the recipient of over 2,000 trees from an anonymous Japanese benefactor, that were developed from a single parent to grow in warm climates. In 1926, Philadelphia received from the Japanese government over 1,000 trees with another 1,000 planted by the Japan American Society of Greater Philadelphia between 1998 to 2007. Sister cities in Japan gave trees to their U.S. sister cities. I asked Google - "Where do cherry blossom trees grow?" It answered, "wherever you plant them." Well duh! Some are growing in Miami - remember, cherry blossom trees don't produce edible fruit.

I have been to the D.C. festival many times. From the first time, I have a picture of a smiling (darling, of course - cough, cough) little girl in a tailored coat, white cloves and purse. Telling of my age, when children were dressed up to take them out and about. I didn't do that for my children and things are even more slack now. Then when my youngest daughter moved to Maryland, just outside D.C., I visited her during the festival. D.C. has a parade with bleachers, floats, large balloons, marching bands and entertainers. I excitedly suggested we go downtown to see it. My daughter sat me down and turned on the TV. No, we weren't going to get involved with those crowds, we could watch it much better, safer and saner on television. For several years after that, I watched it on television. I have been trying to find out how and where to find this year's parade. This year's festival is from March 20 through April 13 with the big parade on April 13. I have a series of cherry blossoms on my screen saver. They really are beautiful.

Japanese people have a lunch picnic with sake under the blossoming trees, a centuries-old practice called "Hanami," a flower viewing party. They've been held since the third century. To them, cherry blossoms symbolize clouds due to their blooming en masse. Often used in Japanese art and all manner of consumer goods, like clothing, dishes and stationary. During World War II, this symbol was used to motivate the Japanese people. Kamikaze pilots painted falling cherry blossom petals on the sides of their planes. In its colonial enterprises, Imperial Japan often planted cherry trees as a means of "claiming occupied territory, a Japanese space."

While visiting the blossoms, visit the U.S. National Arboretum, established in 1927 by and Act of Congress. It is a 446-acre garden park, and research institution, part of the USDA, open every day but Christmas. Enter at 3501 New York Avenue Northeast. It contains 22 of the original 24 Corinthian columns of our Capitol, 1858-1958, in the Ellipse Meadow. Constructed of sandstone near Aquia Creek, Virginia, they were transported to Washington, D.C., by barge. They were the original pillars made for the East portico of the Capitol in 1828 long before the dome was completed. When the dome was added, it was out of proportion to the pillars. It was 1858 before new columns were added to the Capitol to correct the visual illusion. The pillars were then placed as a monument in the 20-acre Ellipse Meadow. The two crumbled columns are inside the Azalea Garden. The National Arboretum is sponsoring a Family Forest Bathing April 7 at 1 p.m.

The grounds are open 6 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. They have a Conservatory Restaurant that serves breakfast from 8-11 a.m. and lunch from 12-2 p.m.

You can also peek in on Congress as they are in session now. Sessions begin in January of odd numbered years and end in December of the same year. Congress adjourns at the end of each session. There are two sessions for each sitting Congress.

If you are late arriving on the 13th, the cherry blossoms are gone, the dogwood and azaleas are ready to put on a spectacular display. When all the petals blow off at once, you get the feeling you've experienced a snow blizzard.

Springtime in the North is a reawakening, a rebirth of life. Fortunately, we seem to have a perpetual spring here. I miss having a cherry tree in my backyard, though.

Well, April Fool's Day is upon us next Monday. Be wary. Thank a tree and take deep breath!

Joyce Comingore is a Master Gardener, hibiscus enthusiast and member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.



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