The phrase “Washington cherry blossoms” may immediately bring to mind the world-famous blooms of Washington, DC cherry blossoms. That’s understandable. The blooms in the U.S. capital are magnificent, to be sure.
But on the other side of the country, Washington State has its own splendid display of springtime cherry blossoms that ought not to be overlooked. The Evergreen State, along with its namesake evergreens, has a collection of cherry blossoms that are certain to put a “spring” in your step after a long, gray winter.
Here are some of the best places to view these beautiful blossoms throughout Washington State.
In the extreme southern part of the state, right on the Washington/Oregon border, the city of Vancouver blooms each spring with 100 Shirofugen cherry trees. The trees were planted at Clark College as a sign of friendship between the region and Japan.
Cherry trees are native to Japan, where they are highly prized for their symbolism of the beauty and brevity of life. The Japanese tradition of hanami (translated as “flower viewing) is a time when the people of Japan slow down, picnic, converse, and relax while taking in the brief but breathtaking beauty of the nation’s cherry blossoms.
Vancouver established a sister-city relationship with the Japanese city of Joyo in 1995. The annual Sakura Festival has been held at Clark College since 2006. The cherry blossoms blooms are a springtime hanami tradition for students and Vancouver residents alike.
The state capital boasts some of the loveliest cherry blossoms anywhere in the state. The grounds of the State Capitol building are awash with pink and white cherry blossom petals each spring. Viewing the cherry blossoms between the domed Legislative Building and the office buildings of the House and Senate is an Olympian springtime tradition.
And as an added bonus, you’ll also want to check out the “Sine Die Tree” while you’re there. It’s a large Saucer Magnolia tree at the southeast end of the Legislative Building. Tradition states that the legislative session is supposed to end when the blossoms are in full bloom. Special legislative sessions can extend past the tree’s bloom, meaning that lawmakers often ignore this unofficial, non-legally-binding tradition. But it’s still a super cool tree, nonetheless!
The Lilac City certainly lives up to its nickname in the spring. The Green Bluff area is especially lovely in the spring, with all the farms and orchards in the area.
For example, Cherry Hill Orchard in Mead, Washington, is a favorite site for photographers during the brief cherry blossom bloom. Bridal and family photo sessions, along with scenic photography opportunities, yield some unforgettable shots each spring.
Point Defiance Park outside of Tacoma is a 760-acre arboreal paradise. The hiking trails and gardens are filled with all manner of tree species, including cherry trees that adorn the garden with beautiful blooms each spring.
The Emerald City is certainly a Washington jewel in the springtime. Seattle celebrates its lovely spring blooms with the annual Seattle Cherry Blossom and Japanese Cultural Festival. There are multitudes of locales to view Seattle’s annual cherry blossom spectacle. Here are a few of the best.
University of Washington
The University of Washington is famous for its iconic cherry blossoms. The densest collection of campus blossoms is on the Quad, where 29 Yoshino cherry trees produce a panorama of pastel pink and white petals each spring.
Clones of the Quad’s trees are growing in other areas of the campus, along with additional varieties of cherry trees, including Kwanzan, Hisakura, Higan, Mt. Fuji, and Shirofugen. The cherry trees, along with a variety of other spring blooms, make the campus resplendent with spring colors. When the blooms are at their peak, the UW campus is a picture of springtime perfection in the Puget Sound Region.
Washington Park Arboretum
Washington Park Arboretum‘s 230 acres feature hundreds of plants and trees, many of which you won’t find anywhere else in the Northwest United States. There are also a lovely collection of cherry trees and a beautiful Japanese garden.
Jefferson Park in south Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood features some utterly stunning views. The cherry trees in the park were originally planted in 1912. An additional 25 trees were planted in 2012 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the park.
Seward Park displays numerous cherry trees, some of which were donated by Japan in the 1920s. It’s a wonderful place for the whole family, with a playground and the Seward Park Audubon Center.
Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park
The Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park is located just 14 miles east of Seattle in the “Issaquah Alps.” Over 3,100 acres of forest land and miles upon miles of hiking trails draw thousands of visitors each year.
Springtime in the park is lovely with all the spring blooms, including the park’s collection of cherry blossoms. It’s a beautiful place to spend a spring day in the Pacific Northwest.
When Do Washington’s Cherry Blossoms Peak?
Timing the cherry blossom bloom is difficult because it varies from year to year. The weather is the single most important factor in determining when the blooms will appear, when they will peak, and when they will fall.
Peak bloom is declared when 70% of a region’s cherry trees are in full bloom. The peak bloom on the University of Washington campus occurs on average in the third week of March. But the blooms can arrive anywhere from mid-March to early April. It’s definitely a bummer when the blooms arrive while most students are away during spring break!
If March temperatures are fairly warm, the blooms may appear sooner. But if March is unusually cool, the blooms may hold off until early to mid-April.
Once the cherry blossoms do reach the peak stage, they don’t last long. Windy or rainy conditions, which are common in the Pacific Northwest, can easily cut the bloom short. In a normal year, the blooms will last 4-5 days at peak. If the weather is calm, they may hold on a little longer.
It’s not always easy to nail down the timing, but it’s worth the effort. Monitor the weather forecast and listen to local floral experts. They will have their finger on the pulse of the spring blooming season. That will give you the best possible chance to catch Washington’s cherry blooms at their glorious peak.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/gmc3101
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