Seattle Makes Me… bloom

Photos, picnics, parties and kissing under the University of Washington Cherry Blossom

Photos, picnics, parties and kissing under the University of Washington Cherry Blossom

A month has gone by without a blog post and so much has happened in that time – don’t be surprised if there is a flurry of additions over the next week. Sadly Washington has been in the international news headlines with the tragic loss of life due the Oso landslide following a very wet (record-breaking) March. Every life is precious and so many have been lost, affecting communities deeply.

Looking over Puget Sound on the first day of Spring

Looking over Puget Sound on the first day of Spring

In the city we have transitioned from winter to spring – even if occasionally the weather tries to slip us back. The first day of spring woke slowly, when I left the house early it was still very chilly. By mid morning it was glorious – and the afternoon was super sparkly. 


IMG_20140320_123816There is a developing tradition in Seattle of giving out a daffodil to celebrate this first day of Spring. 16 years ago Pike Place Market (the wonderful farmers market in the city centre) began ‘Daffodil Day’. This year market volunteers, community members and children from Pike Place Pre-School gave out 10,000 daffodils donated from market farmers for free. They were handed out, as single stems, to people passing by 15 downtown locations.

IMG_20140320_155956I was lucky enough to receive one as I passed along the waterfront during a 12 mile walk – how delightful. The tradition is apparently catching on, with office workers bringing flowers to share and friends welcoming each other with a daffodil. It was lovely to look about and see the bright yellow peeking out of a shopping bag, in a buttonhole, carried by hand…

The daffodils are only a part of the colours filling the streets as the warmth has brought so much growth, sprouts and flowering right across the city. A highlight for many people is the cherry blossom, as it brightens gardens, lines neighbourhood streets and public parks alike. A very special place to view the cherry blossom is The University of Washington quadrangle.

IMG_030931 Yoshino cherry trees fill the quad, they were originally planted in the University Arboretum but had to be moved, rather quickly, in the early 1960s due the construction of the new state highway 520 coming across Lake Washington. Most of the trees are over 80 years old, the expected life expectancy for this species is 75 to 100 years. The UW graduating class of 1959 raised $85,000 dollars to create an endowment to enable for the care of the trees and prepare replacements, I guess no-one can imagine the quad without them.

IMG_0304Yoshino cherry trees, a natural hybrid which developed in Tokyo around 1870, bloom slightly early than many varieties – and of course these things can never be planned. The history of the Yoshino coming to the USA, via Seattle and Washington DC is a fascinating tale of diplomacy, disease and perseverance – there is a great quick summary here and I love some of the early photography.

To help keep everyone up to date nowadays the trees have their own twitter account, there is an bloom progress page and great short video on their history on the UW website and the local public radio station KUOW updates on the blossom state – not to mention youtube videos IMG_0338and photos on flickr and pintrest – so just a bit of madness then… This year the 100% bloom period began on 21 March – hello Spring! Apparently people travel not just from all over the state but further in to the USA to see the blooms, and the quad is filled daily with a mix of families, students and other residents all with cameras. This year the height of the bloom was during the University spring break, staff were heard commenting about the noise outside their window as it seemed the whole city not just University was holidaying on their doorstep.

Out on the streets it seems each day more of spring unfurls, it is a delight to walk the streets and pass through beautiful fragrances on every turn.  My camera has been very busy, some days I am walking in short sleeves, the vistas are breathtaking, the reflections in the water beautiful. On a sunny spring day it is very hard to believe there is a city prettier than Seattle. It is also hard to believe a tragedy has happened so close, whilst all this natural beauty has been on show.





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