With Presidents’ day just passing us by and George Washington’s birthday coming up, it’s a good time to think about a little presidential history. I’m sure everyone can remember their elementary school teachings about George Washington chopping down a cherry tree. Let’s refresh your memory a little In case you’ve forgotten.
As the story goes, when George Washington was six years old he was gifted a hatchet. This may seem like a strange thing to give our six-year-olds now, but back then it was normal to give your young sons hatchets! Anyways, young George set about chopping everything in sight, including his father’s prized cherry tree.
When George Washington was confronted by his father, who was deeply upset over his dead tree, George said his iconic line, “Father, I cannot tell a lie. It was I who chopped down the cherry tree.” The anger in his father’s face left as he replied with something along the lines of, “Your honesty is worth more than a thousand cherry trees.”
Did it Really Happen?
This story has a heartwarming ending for everyone but the cherry tree that had to perish in order to give us a lesson about integrity. There’s speculation as to whether or not the story is true, and if it didn’t really happen we still all learned a lesson about the value of honesty. However, here at Fast-Growing-Trees we’re slightly hung up about the innocent cherry tree that suffered a chopping.
What type of cherry tree was it?
There are Black Cherry Trees native to North America that colonists enjoyed. They liked to eat the cherries, make rum with them, and use the strong and beautiful wood for making furniture. If George Washington’s father had one of those trees, he probably had a lot of future plans invested in it!
In 1629 sweet cherry trees like the Bing Cherry Tree were ordered from Europe and brought to Massachusetts colony. These trees quickly gained popularity and spread throughout the area. It became custom to allow travelers to pluck the fruit from these trees during their trips, as long as they didn’t harm the trees.
Even if we don’t know what type of cherry tree that George Washington may have taken a hatchet to, we do know that he loved his garden. He grew a variety of fruit, from apples, peaches, cherries and more. He also had flowering shrubs and flowering trees. For exotic plants George even had a green house.
Flowering Cherry Trees
We do know that George Washington didn’t chop down a flowering cherry tree. They weren’t introduced to United States until the early 1900’s. Maybe with Mount Vernon being only 8 miles away from Washington D.C. people felt inspired to plant their new flowering cherry trees all around Washington in honor of the cherry tree story.
In 1910 2,000 cherry trees arrived in Washington D.C. They were a gift from Japan accepted by first lady Helen Taft. This actually started a long tradition of both the US and Japan gifting plants to each other. Unfortunately, these 2,000 trees were discovered to be infested with insects and nematodes, so they were burned in order to protect local growers.
Once the Japanese ambassador heard the news he donated over 3,000 insect free and healthy trees to replace the original trees. The first two of these trees, planted by the first lady Helen Taft and wife of the Japanese Ambassador Viscountess Chinda were planted on the North Bank of the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park.
With thousands of blooming cherry trees and 12 different cultivars that include the Yoshino Cherry and the Kwanzan Cherry, you can imagine how beautiful Washington looks in the early spring when the seas of white and pink blooms start to emerge. In fact, the trees are so beautiful that there is a Cherry Blossom Festival every year in Washington that starts on the last Sunday of March. The four week long festival attracts thousands of spectators every year. The spectators admire the beautiful white blooms from the Yoshino Cherry Tree, and then two weeks later the pink Kwanzan Cherry Blooms emerge. The festival is complete with fireworks, classes about the different cherry trees, and even parades.
Grow Your Own Cherry Trees
While it would be amazing to attend the Cherry Blossom Festival, you can easily grow your own tart Black Tartarian Cherry Trees or your own Sweet Bing Cherry Trees to provide your yard with a natural link to history. Although, hopefully your children won’t chop them down!
Yoshino and Kwanzan Cherry Trees are also very easy to grow, and will provide you with amazing blooms for many years. The blooms will match the beauty that surrounds our capital every spring! They are also a few of the first flowering varieties to bloom in the spring, letting you know that winter has ended and warmer months are on their way.