Every Lovely Garden Has Cherry Blossoms
I was reminded when looking at some recent pictures by photographer, Chi Kin Lai, of Tai Po, how every lovely garden either has cherry blossoms, or wishes it did. I’m sure the bee in the picture was appreciating the majestic beauty of one of nature’s earliest reminders, that sooner or later Spring will be here in full glory.
The picture also reminds me of how little most people here know about the history of cherry trees and the significance of cherry blossoms (second only to apple blossoms). It’s a global story with many chapters. Visiting parks and gardens wherever cherry trees are planted around the world are one of the most popular spring pastimes as people begin to spend more time outdoors after the dreariness of winter.
Cherry trees are native to Asia, primarily the oldest known species of them being found both in China and in Japan. There is a lot of controversy about who had them first. The earliest blooms of cherry trees in China is in the Southwest region in a placed named Kunming. There you’ll find over ten thousand pink flowering cherry trees, usually early in March. It’s staggering to think that these trees were actually planted during the Yuan Dynasty, which was over eight hundred years ago.
If are ever vacationing in Wuhan (Hubei Province) you’ll only find a tenth of the cherry trees as in Kunming, and they will be primarily white. Japanese invaders planted them over seventy years ago. Older Chinese citizens will complain that the trees should be taken down because they symbolize oppression and are just another reminder of the troubles between China and Japan in their complicated past.
While most of us recognize cherry trees in the pink blossoms, many varieties are of different colors. If you were to go to Beijing, for example, you’d find at Yuyuantan Park alive with white, pink, and red cherry blossoms sometime around late March. These trees aren’t nearly as old as the ones in Kunming, as they were only planted about forty years ago, as Japan and China celebrated a new beginning in their often troubled history.
Culturally, in China, the cherry blossom has a very different symbolism to the people of the land, as opposed to it’s nearby neighbor, Japan. Cherry blossoms in China symbolize the power of women and her femininity in its loveliest form.
While over in Japan, cherry blossoms are more closely tied to Buddhist beliefs regarding the brevity of life in nature. This has a lot to do with the correlation of how very briefly cherry trees actually are in bloom.
“The cherry is among flowers as the samurai is among men.”
It would surprise many people to learn the following about cherry trees and cherry blossoms:
- Cherry blossoms are completely edible and often used in Asian dishes, especially in Japan where they are sometimes pickled and made into desserts. There is a dish made from the salted leaves called “sakuramochi,” that tastes both salty and sweet. You can even find them sometimes in your tea or soup.
- Just a mere twenty cherries a day are a home remedy for both arthritis and headaches.
- Cherry math — It takes two hundred and fifty cherries to make one pie. The average cherry tree has about seven thousand cherry blossoms that turn into seven thousand cherry fruits. The end result of those numbers means that one cherry tree equals roughly twenty-eight cherry pies.
- The bark of the cherry tree has the scent of almonds.
- Heated cherry stones from the fruit were used by early colonists in bed pans to keep children warm.