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Green Acre #372: Cherry Jubilee

The cherry tree, in full bloom last year, from the second-floor sunroom off my office. On the front, cherry “mulch”: The tree, past its peak, scatters petals on the path to the garage. / Photos by Stephanie Cavanaugh.

By Stephanie Cavanaugh

‘THE WILLOWS . . .  leap into the air with tremendous verve, and in five years reached thirty feet.”

Thirty feet in five years. That’s my kind of tree, said my greedy little brain in yet another misguided thought.

Mirabel Osler’s A Gentle Plea for Chaos may be the perfectly named book for me, as chaos is my preferred state of being, and the worst one for me to dwell upon. Her acres upon English acres with their streams and hillocks have nothing to do with the two poor little patches of earth, one fore, one aft, of our unimposing townhouse. So far, in my reading, she’s planted 20 trees, and that’s Chapter One. Such space she has, a gulping wonder for a magpie eye like mine. 

If one tree doesn’t satisfy, the next will. And, oh! Isn’t that one pretty. I’ll take three. 

Meanwhile, I find the only problem with plants and trees too big or too many for the petite garden is that they are too big or too many for the petite garden. But will I ever learn?

For example, it is no small matter to remove a 15-year-old Kwanzan cherry when it has grown (in an I told you so manner) to a scale where one can prune branches from a second-floor window. 

I will say, it certainly makes a statement. 

Wouldn’t virtual reality be a wonder here. A hologram of a cherry in full bloom. As the tree doesn’t really exist, the ground can be planted with all manner of sun lovers, roses tumbling about with iris, peonies, petunias. O! to grow a zinnia. 

And wouldn’t it be grand to revisit that hologram in, say, January, when (if) snow piles up on the porch railings and the garage roof. An explosion of pink in the depth of winter white. 

Meanwhile, the cherry, the real one, is the largest of our gardening misadventures. It was chosen for precisely what it has become, a massive screen between our garden and the townhouses that grew up in what was once a schoolyard parking lot behind our garage. Why, one could romp naked beneath it in midsummer and none but a neighboring gymnast could catch a glimpse, which I wouldn’t recommend, by the way.

Grow it certainly did. Each year the struggle remains to find anything that will flower beneath its mighty limbs.

Luckily, I’ve grown fond of shade, and enjoying the calm of various tones of green and those plants happy to flourish, or at least exist, in severely dappled shade. Ferns, hydrangeas, and the like. I’ve also grown to appreciate pot gardening, meaning plants grown in pots; there’s not enough sun for the other sort. These can be moved to chase the sunshine, sometimes several times a day if I’m of a mind to (usually not). 

In a week or two I can clip some stems from the tree and force the blooms in a vase. Another few weeks and the tree itself will burst into double-ruffled pink flowers— unlike the comparatively prissy petals of the Yoshino cherries that surround the Tidal Basin,* looking like a wedding party with a motley assortment of guests, obese families in a shouting match of plaid shorts and shirts, so they can find one another. Sniff. 

Ours are riotously fleshy, flashy flowers that will last a week or so, depending on how cool the air remains, and will then snow down upon the flower beds in a dense pink mulch punctuated by pink and purple tulips. 

A storybook fantasy, so brief. So pleasurable. 

Perhaps . . . it’s not a mistake. 


*The National Park Service says peak bloom of the Yoshino cherries should be March 22 to 25, 2022. The annual Cherry Blossom Festival, which sometimes coincides with the blooming of the trees, is from March 20 to April 17. Check out the events here.

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One thought on “Green Acre #372: Cherry Jubilee

  1. monte thompson says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    Robert has planted a cherry tree in every house that we have ever inhabited. At our current home in the summer at Chautauqua NY, we get to see it in bloom about every other year when we arrive about the first week of May.
    It’s that much behind DC.
    We don’t even put in annuals ’til Memorial Day.
    I do buy them early, pop them out, rough up the roots for stimulation, cut them back so they branch, put them back in the 6-now-4 packs and grow them on for another month.

    Robert is a wiz at Wave Petunias in planter boxes. I do well with Cleome and Cosmos in beds. Can’t get Verbena( Bonariensis) to grow from seed. Oh pooh!.

    I do have great luck with White Assylum seeds from the Dollar Store(!!!!!!!) as long as I keep them wet for the first week, plant them right in the crack of the sidewalk and the bed and cut them back or reseed in August. Need sun though.

    I have been in a Dahlia Obsession like a lot of other people, for a couple of years now, But they, too, need time and full sun. After almost 40 years of gardening, first in Delaware now here,I’ve gotten to be pretty good.

    I’ve made every mistake, planted and lost thousands of plants but enjoyed every minute.

    My secret weapon though, is That Big Boy, Robert, who gets up every morning at 5am, pours himself a cup of coffee, picks up the hose and waters in the quiet of the sunrise……in his underwear. I roll up the hose. We have his beds…. and my beds and never the twain will meet. But he does water for me. And I will weed for him.
    All is good here, I enjoy your posts because I have lived and tried gardening in those long thin Capitol Hill town houses.

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