The incredible cherry blossoms of Washington D.C. have amazed visitors and residents alike for over 100 years – but few of us know the whole story behind those beautiful blooms.
Each year, the National Cherry Blossom Festival honors the 1912 gift of the cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the city of Washington, D.C. But what we don’t usually hear about was what happened before.
Some of the very first cherry trees were in fact planted at the home of David Fairchild, an employee of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He fell in love with the now-famous trees while on a trip to Japan in 1902, but couldn’t convince anyone else of their beauty because they didn’t bear any fruit. Undeterred, Fairchild imported more than 100 trees to his own property in Chevy Chase, Maryland.
When then-First Lady Helen Taft visited Fairchild’s home in 1909, she was taken by the incredible blossoming trees and suggested they could be used to improve the appearance of the capitol. Working with Fairchild, Taft worked on an agreement to have 2,000 trees sent over from Japan (across the Pacific to a port in Seattle and onto a train to D.C.)
When the trees arrived after their long journey, they were found to be seriously diseased and had to be destroyed by being set aflame on the National Mall, unfortunately acting as somewhat of an insult to the Japanese. However, it turns out that the Japanese were embarrassed over the mistake of the diseased trees and arranged a second shipment: on March 27, 1912, more than 3,000 pristine trees arrived in the Nation’s Capitol.
Today, only two of the original trees remain – but every year the National Cherry Blossom Festival takes place (this year from March 20 – April 17), and more than a million visitors flock to the city’s Tidal Basin, which provides great photo ops near the Jefferson Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.
And if you’re just as in love with those cherry blossoms as we are, tag your best blossom photos with #LiaisonBlossoms and follow @liaisoncaphill on Instagram to enter to WIN a weekend getaway at The Liaison! (Blackout dates and restrictions apply).