Hanami - Pittsboro Style

In Japan the first cherry blossoms of spring are heralded with much celebration.  Hanami is the tradition of enjoying the cherry blossom season which would start now in Pittsboro with the blooming of the Prunus Mume at Kiwanis Park.  While the tradition now mostly celebrates the bloom of the Sakura or flowering cherry, a more ancient tradition exists of celebrating the bloom of the Prunus Mume, which is more closely related to an apricot than a cherry or a plum.  
Traditionally, the delicate flowers were seen as a metaphor for the ephemeral nature of life.  From wikipedia:  “Poems were written praising the delicate flowers, which were seen as a metaphor for life itself; beautiful, but lasting for a very short time. This "temporary" view of life is very popular in Japanese culture and is usually considered as an admirable form of existence; for example, in the samurai's principle of life ending when it's still beautiful and strong, instead of slowly getting old and weak. The Heian era poets used to write poems about how much easier things would be in spring without the sakura blossoms, because their existence reminded us that life is very short.”

The Prunis Mume or Japanese Apricot tree was selected for inclusion in the Kiwanis Park because of it’s early and beautiful bloom.  Its fruit are edible as well, and no poisons are used at the park, so feel free to eat them this summer.  For you macrobiotics, this is the tree from which umboshi 'plums' are made.  The weeping cherry blooms will come to the park later in the spring.  Both the weeping cherry tree and the Japanese Apricot trees are still quite young; their displays will mature along with the tree.  
The hanami tradition is not uncommon in America; April 1st is the anticipated date of the peak bloom of the Sakura in Washington DC, for instance, which were a gift from the Japanese government.  I know of several private parties locally centered around these beautiful blooms.  It's never too late to begin new traditions or to appreciate the ephemeral flowers of late winter.  

I took the following photo yesterday, and in contrast to a similar one I took about a year ago, (March 15th, 2010 to be exact) I saw no honeybees pollinating the flowers.  Maybe a few more weeks of warm weather will coax them out.   

The Japanese Apricot (prunis mume) is now in bloom at the Kiwanis Park in Pittsboro.


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