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New festival blossoms at Descanso

Cherry Blossom Festival to honor Japanese culture, garden's native trees.

March 15, 2011|By Sara Cardine, Special to the Valley Sun
  • A family walks by a Flowering Cherry tree near the Japanese Garden at Descanso Gardens in La Canada Flintridge on Tuesday, March 15, 2011. Descanso Gardens will hold a Cherry Blossom Festival on March 19 and 20th. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)
A family walks by a Flowering Cherry tree near the Japanese…

As Japan struggles to rebuild itself in the wake of a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and the devastating tsunami that followed, La Cañada residents will have a unique opportunity this weekend to connect with and reflect upon the nation’s rich cultural traditions at Descanso Gardens’ inaugural Cherry Blossom Festival.

For years, Descanso has honored Japan’s heritage with its Japanese Garden Festival in November. This is the first time that the cherry blossoms, which bloom briefly in late winter and early spring according to their variety, will take center stage.

Visitors to the garden March 19 and 20 can participate in a wide variety of activities that focus on the Japanese culture and its influence on America, including guided tours of the garden’s many cherry trees. On Saturday, visitors can watch a 30-minute Japanese tea ceremony and listen to a lecture by Descanso horticulturalist Mike Brown on the genus Prunus, which includes stone fruit trees such as cherries, plums and peaches. On Sunday, Jesse Genovese, executive chef at Toluca Lake’s Ramsey’s at the Club, will give a Japanese-fusion cooking demonstration with a tasting afterward.

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Descanso is also offering for sale Bento lunch boxes, cherry blossom-inspired cocktails and young cherry trees for planting.

“With that spectrum, there’s something for everybody,” said Lisa Kurstin, who manages Descanso’s education programs. “It might be just the right thing for people who are thinking of Japan right now, because it’s an immersion in Japanese culture.”

The event will take place rain or shine, and covered seating is available for outdoor events in case it does rain anytime during the festival, Kurstin said.

Kurstin said Descanso representatives were invited last year by the Japanese Consul General’s office to a consortium of gardens that host cherry blossom festivals. After hearing anecdotes about hundreds of people coming to celebrate a single cherry tree at some locations, it seemed a no-brainer to host a festival at Descanso, which boasts more than 20 trees representing 10 different varieties of cherries, according to Wen Wang, curator of plant collections.

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