Iconic and beloved in Toronto’s High Park, the cherry blossoms that draw tens of thousands of eager visitors each year were not always a part of this local landmark. The significant historical roots behind how these beautiful trees first came to be is one that reflects the importance of community unity and international peace.
In anticipation of this year’s cherry blossoms, Royal LePage Your Community Realty is presenting a look at some of the history behind the planting of sakura trees at High Park, how they continue to influence and draw visitors in present-day, and what you need to know when planning your visit to see these beauties in bloom this season!
Though it may seem as though the thousands of spectacular sakura trees that are planted throughout the park have been there forever, the history behind them can be dated back to 1959.
This first planting was part of an initiative formed by Consulate-General Yoshida and supported by the combined efforts of Japanese Canadian leaders and local community members. The campaign, led by Consulate-General Yoshida involved the fundraising of $20,000 toward actualizing the plan for a “Japanese garden” to be established within a local Toronto park. This project was aimed at unifying the community and showing support for those from the Japanese community, who faced discrimination in the post-war landscape of Toronto at the time.
Having successfully raised the funds to support bringing this vision of a “Japanese garden” to life, Japanese ambassador to Canada Toru-Hagiwara delivered 2,000 Somei-yoshino sakura trees, which were planted in gratitude for Toronto’s acceptance of displaced post-war Japanese-Canadians.
Since then, there have been additional trees planted, including a planting project conducted by the Consulate-General Hara in 2000. That project, which spanned ten years and was called the Sakura Project, aimed to plant 3,000 sakura trees throughout Ontario in an ongoing effort to nurture and promote collaboration and harmony between Canada and Japan.
In present day, the sakura trees of High Park remain a popular draw for visitors each year hoping to catch them in time to experience the magic of their full bloom.
Cherry blossoms last for approximately a week to a week and a half, but this is dependent on weather conditions. If there is considerable rain during their bloom, for example, the petals will fall more quickly and the bloom will not last as long as a result. Cold weather can also impact the duration of bloom.
Every year, the crowd numbers to visit the cherry blossom trees are in the tens of thousands. These massive groups descend upon the park as visitors clamor to catch a glimpse of the majestic sakura trees.
The majority of the trees presented to the city in 1959 were planted overlooking Grenadier Pond along the hillside in High Park as well as around the east shore of Grenadier Pond.
Peak bloom for the Sakura trees will typically land in late April to easy May, but this is, of course, weather dependent and unfortunately, occurs in a small window lasting about a week. There are many sources for ongoing bloom updates. The High Park Nature Centre has a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram page, and even a Cherry Blossom Hotline (647-946-2547) that posts updates on the bloom of the Sakura every few days until full bloom.
Adobe Stock Image - High Park Toronto
Trying to get the perfect shot of the beautiful sakura blooms should not involve grabbing at or pulling on branches, as this can damage the trees and in many instances, break them altogether. These breaks and points of damage in the trees can leave room for pests or disease to infiltrate and wreak havoc.
Do not shake the trees and branches either! This will cause petals to fall off and as a result shorten the life space of the trees blooms, meaning less time for others to enjoy them.
Adobe Stock Image - High Park Toronto - Grenadier Pond
As an update on this year’s bloom, The High Park Nature Centre has announced the 2023 Cherry Blossom experience will be a vehicle-free one. As a result, in order to ensure the safety of the experience for all, the park will be closed to vehicles during peak bloom days.
Please note: TTC Wheel-Trans vehicles are excepted.
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