Although I have professed my love for the flowering trees of D.C. (and, oh yes, that does include the cherry blossoms), I’ve got to admit – I never spent much time when I lived there thinking about their symbolism.
I mean, the cherry trees? To me, they symbolized the hurray of Spring, and they symbolized that the traffic around the Tidal Basin was about to grind to a halt, and they usually symbolized we were about to get a raw, wet, nasty day, generally timed to directly coincide with the National Cherry Blossom Festival’s long-planned parade, that would knock all the delicate blossoms to the ground as if they were snowflakes.
So I perked up, last May during my visit to the San Francisco Botanical Garden, when Gordon Wilson, the docent leading my walking tour, started explaining what the cherry blossoms meant to the Japanese.
“They used them to indicate when to start the rice seed,” he said. “When the trees bloomed, it meant a period of warm weather was coming.”
According to Gordon, the next step in the process came after a specific iris (and although I was taking notes, I didn’t get the name of this one) bloomed as well. That indicated a period of wet weather would be coming soon, so that’s when the rice farmers would plant their crop.
See, this is the kind of gardening marker I can get behind. When this very visible thing happens, start the seed. When this very visible thing happens, plant the seedling. This doesn’t require hoping that the almanac is going to hit the last frost date accurately this year, or require searching old blog posts and weather.com for indicators of when the weather might turn.
Just blossom: start. Blossom: plant. Very simple, and beautiful, to boot.