Editor’s note: Due to the production schedule for Pacific NW magazine, this story was written before the state’s “stay at home” orders, intended to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, were enacted. Please consider social distancing recommendations if you do choose to go outside to see the blossoms.
WE HUMANS, ALONG with most living creatures, are drawn to extravagant floral displays in nature. From super blooms in the desert to meadows strewn with wildflowers, blazing color and generosity compel our attention and clear our heads like the brisk wind that often worries the spring garden.
Springtime in the garden is busy. But cherry blossom season is worth marking. Standing beneath a canopy of delicate pink petals fills us up and restores winter-deficient levels of what scientists who study this sort of thing have taken to calling vitamin N — Nature.
In 1976, Japanese Prime Minister Takeo Miki gifted the city of Seattle with 1,000 cherry trees in commemoration of our country’s bicentennial. Ornamental cherries (Prunus spp.) thrive in our Pacific Northwest climate. Now 34 years later, these trees are in their prime and are putting on a spectacular, if fleeting, show.
Sakura is the Japanese word for cherry blossom. That moment when the blossoms begin to shatter and shed their petals is called Sakura Snow — a botanical representation of the ephemeral nature of life. Just now our region is flush with flowering cherries, a bountiful pink prompt inviting us all to pause and revel in the spring spectacle.
Most years, folks typically head to the University of Washington and the Quad, to find ‘Yoshino’ cherry trees in all their blossoming glory. Lots of cherry trees, yes, and usually lots of cherry tree-gazing crowds, as well. This particular year, though, UW has discouraged in-person visits and instead suggests viewing this webcam. Another option: The display is so popular, it even has its own Twitter account (@uwcherryblossom).
Those of you who appreciate variety in your blossom-viewing should explore Azalea Way in the Washington Park Arboretum, where flowering cherries are mixed in among a dazzling display of blooming dogwoods, magnolias and the brilliant azaleas that give this 3/4-mile-long strolling garden its name.
A ribbon of flowering cherry trees unfurls along Lake Washington Boulevard in Seward Park, which contains 300 acres of trails through old-growth forest and a venerable stand of cherries planted in 1929. Check out the park’s website.
Jefferson Park on Beacon Hill is known for its impressive city and mountain views and recreation activities. But cherry blossoms steal the scene in spring. While you’re in the area, head south from the VA hospital on Beacon Avenue for a stellar streetside display.
Kobe Terrace, a Seattle park located on the northeast border of the International District, features walking paths lined with ‘Mt. Fuji’ cherry trees donated by Seattle’s sister city, Kobe, Japan.
Or simply stop and look around on a walk. Several Seattle neighborhoods are showered in pink petals during cherry blossom season. How delightful!