Many folks are familiar with the famous cherry trees in Washington, D.C. A 1912 gift from Japan, they’ve become a tourist sensation with more than a million people flocking to the Tidal Basin each year to see cherry blossoms explode like frozen fireworks.

What’s lesser known is that some of the most exquisite trees in the nation’s capital came from San Jose. Walter B. Clarke was a local plant breeder who claimed to have the largest stock of flowering cherries outside the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He was rabid about them, describing one species in a 1930s advertisement as the “rarest and most gorgeously beautiful of all. Scarce even in the Orient,” and another as having blossoms “in such profusion as to make the tree look like a cloud of pink.”

When people are wandering among D.C.’s cherries and see pale-pink flowers, they could be Akebono cherries, a mutant variety W.B. Clarke & Son nursery introduced in the 1920s. They account for just 3 percent of the cherry tree population, but that’s not insignificant. Perhaps somebody should get a petition started to rename the D.C. festivities, “The National (with Special Thanks to California) Cherry Blossom Festival”?

You can still see Akebono and other gorgeous cherry tree varieties in the Bay Area. And it’s almost that blooming time, atmospheric rivers and pebble hail be damned.

“The trees have not started flowering yet, so recent storms have not damaged blossoms,” says John Chau, a plant-records specialist at Filoli Historic House and Garden in Woodside. “The cold and wet should not impact the blooms at all. Cherries need winter cold, so this weather makes them happy.”

In turn, the trees make us happy. There’s no more restorative way of spending a spring day – or night, in some cases – than strolling under a flowered canopy dropping petals like delicately scented snow. Science even links cherry blossoms to good vibes. More than other spring flowers, cherries bestow a sense of “relief and relaxation” that helps lift depression, according to a 2018 South Korean study. Just gazing at cherry blossoms in urban parks for a few minutes each day, according to 2019 research, is enough to lower blood pressure and relieve anxiety.

Here are a few great ways to experience those blooming petals this spring.

Visitors attend “Hanami at Hakone Night Viewing” at Hakone Estate and Gardens in Saratoga, Calif., on Wednesday, March 23, 2022. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News …read more

Source:: The Mercury News


Your 2023 Bay Area guide to cherry-blossom festivals and peak flowering

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