Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Cherry Alternatives

It is Cherry Blossom Festival madness again in DC. This year, the National Park Service has enraged many locals by announcing no parking will be available at the Tidal Basin. Personally, I think the park service plan is smart -- take away the meager 180 spaces that created a traffic-chocking blockade and instead provide a free shuttle from Hains Point. A free shuttle every 10 minutes from the nearby metro stops would be even better though. If you walk from Smithsonian metro, it is a bit of a hike and you must cross several roads and dodge traffic -- many of those drivers are tourists* gawking at the views and not looking at the road.

Here are a few alternatives to the Tidal Basin chaos:

~ National Arboretum has a splendid and more varied display and LOTS or parking. Stroll around Fern Valley and the other gardens as well while you are there.

~ The Bethesda neighborhood of Kenwood for their stunning display. Park and walk in for an immersion in cherry tree lined streets.

~ Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown has a marvelous orchard of cherries. There is an $8 admission feee that goes to support the gardens. Parking is also a bear in that neighborhood -- walk or take the bus.

~ Grow your own. In the very first issue of Washington Gardener Magazine, we did a PlantProfile column on the selection and cultivation of cherry trees for our area. Ever since getting my weeping 'Higan' cherry, I feel no need to rush downtown. I keep a daily watch on my baby tree and celebrate loudly when the buds finally burst open. I highly recommend it.

I took this cherry blossom photo towards the end of last year's festival.

*I define "tourist" as anyone who does not regularly visit the Mall or downtown DC. No matter what your home zip code may be, if you haven't been down there since last year's blossoms, you are a visitor too and have given up your rights to kvetch about all those annoying out-of-towners.


I received the following release from Brookside Gardens a few days ago and then went to vsit them myself yesteday. It is free to visit and I can attest that there are many picturesque views and plenty of gorgeous specimens. You may have to wait your turn behind a few bridal parties jockeying for the best photo ops, but it is nothing compared to the Tidal Basin crowds and is well worth a leisurely stroll around the grounds during any season.

>>Brookside Gardens also has beautiful cherry blossom trees and many other flowering trees like plum, apricot, magnolias, and quince in bloom right now, and you don't have to fight the crowds to see them. The gardens are also full of flowering bulbs like hyacinths, tulips, and hillsides of daffodils. If you come this weekend you'll also see one of the largest and oldest daffodil shows on the east coast sponsored by the Washington Daffodil Society. The show runs from Saturday, April 5, 2-5pm and on Sunday, 6, from 9am-4pm. Of course, you won't want to miss our spring conservatory display featuring orchids, jasmine, lilies, camellias, tulips and more, but hurry because the display ends on the 13th. Brookside Gardens, 1800 Glenallan Avenue, Wheaton, MD 20902. For more information, call 301-962-1400 or visit us online at http://www.brooksidegardens.org/.<<


  1. As a note from a humble tourist, I walked from the Smithsonian Metro station last year and didn't find it a bad walk. Especially when I walked south along the river away from the Jefferson Memorial. Left a lot of my fellow gawkers behind and had plenty of room to admire the trees. If you do that, the only recommendation I'd make is to wear shoes that you don't mind getting muddy (the sidewalks were kind of a mess), and keep an ear out for passing cyclists.

    And I don't mind being called a tourist. Especially when I get to visit what I consider to be one of the greatest tourism cities in the world.


  2. Good advice on sturdy, mud-worthy shoes - this IS our rainy season for what it's worth.
    Yeah, I don't mind tourists in the city and I go out of my way to be frindly to them and answer direction questions. I know I'm often in their same shoes in a strange town.
    For many hardened citizens around here though, "tourist" is a curse word to be spat out at anyone who dares block the left-hand side of a metro escalator.

  3. Ah yes....I remember those days when I laughed at the tourists. And now, I am one.

    But it is okay, because I can laugh at the tourists we have here.

    Miss the cherry blossoms though. :(

  4. Anonymous3:09 PM

    There are several blocks of cherry blossom trees creating an arch above the streets of Garrett Park Estates in Kensington. Take Strathmore Road near Holy Cross Church, turn onto Flanders & then I think it's Waycross. The trees span several streets, are lovely & totally free of crowds!

  5. Stanton Park and Lincoln Park on the Hill--and the Hill neighborhoods in general--have a good display of blossoms going now, too.

  6. Thanks, Adam and Anon. - will try to check out both the Hill and Kensington displays.
    I've just come back from a two-day trip to Richmond and touring gardens down there. At Lewis Ginter they have a good-sized pond ringed in Cherry Trees as well. Their blooms are just about ending, so I'd say visit this week -- note: there is an entry fee to the Ginter public garden.
    Also, DCist picked up this post - so find more comments on alternative area displays at:


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