Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge remains closed to visitors due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the cherry blossom season. The season can still be enjoyed virtually, through Digital Descanso Tours, mostly on the Gardens’ Instagram page but also on Facebook and other platforms.
“The early Taiwanese cherries and ‘Pink Cloud’ have long been finished, and ‘Beni Hoshi’ and ‘Akebono’ are in their full glory now,” said David Bare, Director of Horticulture and Garden Operations at Descanso Gardens.
. ‘Beni Hoshi’ is variously defined as meaning pink star, ruby star or red star. It is decidedly soft shell pink in the flowering cherry, but a Japanese Maple with the same name is commonly called ‘Ruby Stars’ for its red star shaped spring leaves. ‘Beni Hoshi’ flowers are distinctly pointed and star shaped.”
He also describes other blooms, such as ‘akebono,’ the ‘day break’ cherry, which tends more toward pure white, though on close observation there is the faintest blush of pink.
“The diaphanous petals are round and borne in rounded clusters of three or four. ‘Akebono’ was one of the original varieties gifted to the US that line the National Mall in Washington, D.C. It is interesting to see that while ‘Akebono’ and ‘Beni Hoshi’ are in full bloom and popping a hint of foliage, the earlier flowering ‘Pink Cloud’ is maturing its leaves and even setting a few berry-size fruits. ‘Snofozan,’ or Snow fountain, is blooming in the Rose Garden. Falling somewhere between the previous two, it is both in flower and leaf. ‘Snofozan’ is a weeping cherry, its branches held in pendulous cascades,” Bare continues.
Some new weeping cherries are also blooming near Descanso Gardens’ front drive landscape, such as prunus pendula ‘Rosea,’ the Higan cherry, a weeping cherry tree that forms curtains of pale pink flowers.
Higan is a Buddhist holiday celebrated exclusively in Japan during the spring and autumn equinoxes. At Descanso, the early flowering Higan cherry and the autumn flowering lycoris are symbolically linked to these two cycles.
“We situated our weeping Higan cherries on our mounds for maximum cascade effect,” Bare says. “Like many newly planted nursery trees, they are on their own schedule and taking their time to break bud.”
Later on in the cherry blossom season, virtual visitors to Descanso gardens may see photos of what may be considered the most spectacular blossoms, he says.
Among these blooms are “Kanzan,” often spelled and pronounced “Kwanzan,” a multi-petaled fluff ball of a tree that generally sprouts olive colored new leaves along with its flower clusters. “Kanzan” trees are in Descanso’s Magnolia Lawn and are just beginning to bloom.
The trees were severely damaged by the heat wave of July 2018, and were not expected to ever recover their form, says Bare.
“However, a newly planted ‘Kanzan’ on the Main Lawn is well on its way to becoming one of Descanso’s iconic cherries. Though ‘Kanzan’ makes an impact, it lacks the delicacy and grace that mark ‘Beni Hoshi’ or ‘Akebono.’ But then, who’s keeping score?”
To view some of the cherry blossom photos, visit Instagram @descansogardens or follow facebook.com/DescansoGardensLA.