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Gardening and More: New festival is budding, to celebrate cherry blossoms

OH SAY, CAN YOU SEE? — A statue of Abraham Lincoln at the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society overlooks the cherry blossoms in the Japanese Garden in Delaware Park. A cherry blossom event will be held, for the first time, in the Japanese Garden on May 11. Photo by Atsuki Ntshida-Mitchell.
BUFFALO — The National Garden Festival entertains Western New York gardeners and tourists alike, during the summer. Starting this spring, we will have another draw for gardeners and tourists: a cherry blossom event.

Organizers are starting out small, but said they plan to grow the event, in upcoming years, according to Trudy Stern, marketing director for Friends of the Japanese Garden of Buffalo.

The cherry blossom viewing picnic will be held from noon – 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 11, in the Japanese Garden in Delaware Park. You can get to the Japanese Garden from the parking lot at the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, Elmwood Avenue and Nottingham Terrace. There is always free parking.

Japan’s cherry blossom season is a time for tourism. The trees bloom first in the south and later in the north, just as they do in the United States. Some tourists follow the festivities from south to north. Wouldn’t it be wonderful for tourists in this country to be able to do the same thing?

Washington, D.C. already hosts the huge National Cherry Blossom Festival, which includes a parade, art shows, Asian cultural events, concerts, Ikebana demonstrations, food tastings, theater and fireworks, in addition to sightseeing events. Now, all we need is a northern destination for tourists.

Western New York is kicking off its first sakura, or cherry blossom event.

“We want the event to celebrate the peace and beauty and hospitality of the Japanese Garden,” Stern said.

Attendees are invited to bring a picnic lunch and stroll through the Japanese Garden. There will also be a celebration of the new cherry trees’ planting.

The event is timed so that it will fall at or just slightly past the peak of the blooming of the cherry trees in the Japanese Garden.

There is already a link between the cherry blossom events in Washington, D.C. and the new event in Buffalo. These two locations share some of the same tree stock. The Japanese Garden in Buffalo has cherry trees that come from the trees in Washington, D.C., which, in turn were a gift in 1912 from the people of Japan. Although the Buffalo trees are still saplings (the oldest tree is only about 10 years old), they already display beautiful pink and white flowers.

The Japanese Garden of Buffalo was a gift from the people of Kanazawa, our sister city in Japan. Kanazawa, home to Kenrokuen Garden, began as part of an imperial palace and is one of the most famous Japanese gardens on the planet.

Through the years, landscape architects from our Buffalo garden have visited the garden in Kanazawa and that city’s landscape architects have visited Western New York.

Our garden not only celebrates the friendship between Buffalo and Kanazawa, but it also serves as a symbol of peace. This is one of the War of 1812 bicentennial peace gardens, which celebrate the 200 years of peace and friendship between Canada and the United States, the countries that share the world’s longest undefended border.

A restoration of the Japanese Garden began in 2009, as one of the projects undertaken with a $1.2 million grant from the Buffalo and Erie County Standing Committee of the Niagara River Greenway Commission, according to Thomas Herrera-Mishler, president and CEO of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy.

Kristin Montoya, the head gardener for the Japanese Garden at the Chicago Botanical Gardens and an expert in Japanese garden design, oversaw the project. Plants that were inappropriate for a Japanese garden were pulled out and new plantings were installed.

Although that project has been completed, the Japanese Garden in Buffalo continues to grow and evolve.

“We’re a baby garden, as Japanese gardens go,” Stern said. “A Japanese garden takes intensive gardening, over a long period of time. Even 2,000 years isn’t pushing it.”

The Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy is working to build an endowment, to ensure perpetual maintenance of the garden. Visitors can make donations to the parks conservancy and are able to designate their gifts to go specifically to the Japanese Garden. A naming opportunity is also available.

Friends of the Japanese Garden of Buffalo is recruiting volunteers. Interested parties are requested to help with plantings and clean-ups in the garden, maintain a website, do fundraising and publicity and support special events. For more information, contact Stern at or call 445-4446. You can also find the organization on Facebook.

I am eagerly waiting for the blossoming of the cherry trees, but do not delay until spring, to view the Japanese Garden of Buffalo. It is designed to offer something during every season.

Connie Oswald Stofko is publisher of, the online gardening magazine for Western New York. Email

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2013-03-28 | 09:53:14
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