Crown Heights

Oh snap! Cold spring may make Botanic Garden’s cherry blossom festival unbe-leaf-able

April 20, 2018 By Gersh Kuntzman Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A few cherry trees are in full bloom, but the cold spring played havoc with the Brooklyn Botanic Garden this year.

Come for the Japanese culture, come back for the cherry blossoms.

Mother Nature (aka the Winter Soldier) is playing havoc with this weekend’s Sakura Matsuri, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s annual festival of 60 performances, demonstrations, music and exhibits celebrating traditional and modern Japanese culture that is typically timed to the “astonishing spring botanical display” of dozens of cherry trees in full flower.

Full flower, huh? The Brooklyn Eagle (hi, all!) stopped by the garden the other day and was shocked to find so few trees in bloom so close to the festival, whose press preview is Tuesday. Yes, a few prunus subhirtella “Pendula” trees around the lake were getting up to peak bloom. And a couple of fudan-zakura specimens were flowering nicely, though one was already past his (her? Its?) prime. But the three-dozen or so prunus “Kazans” that are described as the showiest trees in the collection were still wearing the floral equivalent of mittens and scarves. Sure, they’re typically the latest bloomers in the garden, but as a result of their tardiness, the so-called Cherry Esplanade looks more like a vineyard after harvest than the centerpiece of this weekend’s Cherry Blossom Festival.

“The cold weather has acted like a refrigerator, so they’re a bit slower this year,” garden spokeswoman Elizabeth Reina-Longoria told the Eagle. Given her position, Reina-Longoria, of course, put a positive spin on the weather-related delay: It may help the season stretch out a bit longer this year.

“The festival is always on the last weekend in April,” she said. “Some years, the trees are getting past their peak by then. It always varies. We have 20 cultivars overall, so there’s always something beautiful to see. The trees along the Cherry Walk will be beautiful.”

In the absence of dozens of flowering trees, highlights of this year’s festival include D.J. Sashimi (Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m.) Dancejapan with Sachiyo Ito (Saturday at noon, Sunday at 1 p.m.), Samurai Sword Soul (Saturday at 2:15 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.), Gaijin a Go-Go (Saturday at 3:15 p.m.), and the Japanese market (all day both days).

Sakura Matsuri at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (990 Washington Avenue between President and Carroll Streets in Crown Heights) is Saturday and Sunday, April 28-29, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tickets are $30 for adults (members free). For information, click here.