A grove of 28 flowering cherry trees will be planted this month in Sacramento’s Southside Park as a reminder of Japanese-Americans’ connection to California’s capital city.
“Sakura Grove” will offer Sacramentans a taste of hanami, the Japanese tradition of communing under blooming stands of cherry trees (sakura), says Lon Hatamiya, who co-chairs the Sakuramento committee.
The brief, two-week blossom period is a reminder of the ephemeral or transient nature of life and of the coming of spring, Hatamiya said.
“People would come out from all walks of life and experience the trees,” said Hatamiya, recalling his experience while in Washington, D.C., during the bloom.
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Sakura Grove is already gaining support from the a local landscape company, a national sprinkler company and the city of Sacramento. Now, Sakuramento needs residents’ help reaching the final $3,000 of its $8,000 fundraising goal before an Oct. 16 deadline. An Oct. 28 planting is being organized.
Southside Park is between Sixth and Eighth streets and W to T street. The proposed line of trees would run between the pond and Eighth Street.
“Our goal is to celebrate our community’s rich multicultural heritage by planting a ‘Sakura Grove’ in Southside Park,” reads the gofundme pitch. “The neighborhood surrounding Southside Park was once the home of many of Sacramento’s Japanese families, a large portion of whom were displaced during the WWII internments.”
“It’s at the epicenter of where the Japanese-American community was focused,” said Hatamiya. “It’s an ideal location.”
While the location is steeped in history, it wasn’t the original plan for the trees.
In 2014, The Sacramento Tree Foundation and Sakuramento announced plans to plant a line of 200 Pink Flair cherry trees on the banks of the Sacramento River just north of downtown near Matsui Waterfront Park and the planned location of the Powerhouse Science Center.
“We thought this project would go really fast,” said Ray Tretheway, the executive director of the Tree Foundation.
So they bought the first lot of trees. Months passed. And while the science center – thanks to recent City Council vote – may have momentum again, the trees can’t wait for the center’s completion. Six trees have already died as they waited in pots sitting on the hot pavement.
This won’t be the first time people have tried to introduce a flowering cherry to the Sacramento climate, Tretheway said. Sacramento’s hot summers and soil pathogens have killed most flowering cherry trees introduced to the area, he said.
The Pink Flair was specifically chosen because arborists consulted on the project say it will survive, Tretheway said. Like other varieties of blooming cherry trees, the Pink Flair Cherry does not produce fruit. It produces a bouquet of light pink flowers in the spring and seasonal colors throughout the year, and it is heat- and cold-resistant.
“This species has been signed off,” Tretheway said.
Tretheway and Hatamiya said they are still working to plant the larger Hanami Line of 200 trees. In addition to the trees, that plan calls for permanent lanterns and parasols in a park that would be the site of an annual spring festival celebrating Japanese art, music, food and culture.
The smaller planting will help build interest in the larger park, said City Councilman Steve Hansen.
“We wanted to make a little lemonade and use the trees that were bought,” Hansen said.