Cherry blossom festival is budding in Buffalo’s Japanese Garden

Lincoln statue overlooks cherry blossoms in Japanese Garden of Buffaloby Connie Oswald Stofko

Just as they do in the United States, the cherry trees in Japan bloom first in the southern part of the country and later in the north. Visitors enjoy the spectacular views and accompanying celebrations, and some tourists follow the festivities from south to north during the cherry blossom season.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful for tourists in this country to be able to do the same thing? Washington, D.C. already holds 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. Now all we need is a northern destination for tourists.

This year Buffalo is kicking off its first sakura event or cherry blossom event, said Trudy Stern, marketing director for Friends of the Japanese Garden of Buffalo. Organizers are starting out small and plan to grow the event in coming years.

mirror lake Japanese Garden of Buffalo
Mirror Lake adds beauty to the Japanese Garden of Buffalo. It is one of the most photographed spots in Buffalo, said Thomas Herrera-Mishler, president and CEO of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy. Photo from the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy

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

The Cherry Blossom Viewing Picnic will be held from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 11 in the Japanese Garden in Delaware Park, Buffalo. You can get to the Japanese Garden from the parking lot at the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, Elmwood Avenue and Nottingham Terrace, Buffalo. There’s always plenty of parking and parking is free.

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

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

wide view of Japanese Garden in Buffalo NY
While we’re looking forward to a cherry blossom event in May, the Japanese Garden in Buffalo is meant to be enjoyed in all seasons. It is serenely beautiful even on a cloudy, snowy day in February. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

The Japanese Garden in Buffalo has cherry trees that come from the trees in Washington, D.C., which 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, Stern said. At the beginning of this article, a photo by Atsuki Ntshida-Mitchell shows a wonderful view of the cherry blossoms taken from the Historical Society building.

steps in Japanese Garden in Buffalo NY
Steps are built from rock found right here in New York State as well as rock from Japan. The Japanese Garden of Buffalo is a symbol of international peace. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

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

The stone lantern that you see in the photo above is a replica of the one seen in Kenrokuen Garden. The steps, seen at left, are made  from rock quarried in Japan as well as from rock quarried in the Adirondacks right here in New York State.

Over the years, landscape architects from our garden have visited the garden in Kanazawa, and their landscape architects have visited us.

The garden not only celebrates the the friendship between Buffalo and Kanazawa, it is a symbol of peace, Stern said. It is one of the War of 1812 Bicentennial Peace Gardens, which celebrate the 200 years of peace and longstanding 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, said Thomas Herrera-Mishler, president and CEO of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy.

Japanese Garden in Buffalo NY
While a restoration of the Japanese Garden was recently completed, it continues to evolve. Volunteers are needed.

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 put in.

While 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, Herrera-Mishler said. People can make a donation to the parks conservancy and, if they like, designate their gift to go specifically to the Japanese Garden. There is also a naming opportunity available.

Friends of the Japanese Garden of Buffalo is recruiting volunteers. They need people to help with plantings and clean-ups in the garden, to help with their website, to do fundraising and publicity and to support special events. For more information, contact Stern at tstern2@aol.com or 716-445-4446. You can also find them on Facebook.

10 Comments on “Cherry blossom festival is budding in Buffalo’s Japanese Garden

  1. It is cool to have such a garden smack in the middle of an urban area. The new event sounds like fun and I’m looking forward to seeing how it grows.

  2. I’m really looking forward to this event. What a great festival for nature and culture. The festivals in D.C. and San Francisco are a fun way to marker the passage to spring. Excited to having that here in Buffalo!

  3. These gardens look beautiful. I have never been there, but I’m looking forward to my first visit in May.

  4. Hi Garden Friends! Next early Springtime(2014)in Buffalo we will be growing the Cherry Blossom Festival along with our wonderful Co-Sponsors -The Buffalo History Museum, The Olmsted Conservancy and others. The last week in April will begin the First Annual Buffalo Cherry Blossom Festival! We have invited Cherry Blossom experts to talk and musicians, dancers, poets and perfotmers to share their talents under the blossoming trees and in the Buffalo History Museum Theater. Keep your eyes peeled for more news. There will be a “Pink Tie Gala”, Cherry Blossom Trolley Tours and gifted artists of all kinds. The Festival will feature many free childrens and all ages events and the final day will be a creative costume cherry blossom parade.

  5. Having built my own Japanese style garden at my home and having hundreds of visitors each year, this festival will be a wonderful start to my spring. I hope to attend many of the events during it’s twelve day run. Love the idea.

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