Which comes first, the leaf or the bloom? For the Akebono cherry tree, the “usual” order of events is reversed—the bloom precedes the leaf. The botanical term for this sequence is hysteranthy.
The intriguing nature of this tree, (a cultivar of the Japanese Yoshino cherry), doesn’t end there: the blossoms appear first as pale pink in early spring, then turn to white as the flowers open in the following days, only to turn pink again before wilting. The first dawn of pink that these petals display are likened to pink morning skies, resulting in the Japanese name “Akebono” which means “daybreak” or “dawn.”
Akebono cherry trees are one of several varieties on display during the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C., and these striking beauties bestow their branches on other parts of the country as well, North Carolina included.
In 2012, Duke Gardens redesigned their main entrance—the Gothic Gate entrance—to include an Akebono-lined cherry allée. Last year, I photographed the fruits of this labor while the trees were pretty in pink. (You can view that photo here.)
In early March, I made my way over to the allée to check things out. The trees weren’t in bloom yet, but I thought I detected a pinkish hue in the works on the trees at the far end of the allée. …Soon and very soon, it would appear! (As a volunteer photographer for the Gardens, the urge to camp out there morning, noon and night was irresistible but obviously impractical.)
Do I detect pink cherry blossoms in the making?! (That’s the Duke Chapel in the sunset.) — Durham, NC
Less than two weeks later, I received word that the allée was in bloom! I high-tailed it over after work that very same day…then the next morning…and a couple days after that, too.
Here’s just a sampling of the photos I took. Enjoy!
The allée was designed to resemble a stream descending gradually toward the Mary Duke Biddle Rose Garden and its focal piece, the historic Roney Fountain.
At the top of the grandiose stairway leading to the Rose Garden, the cherry blossoms create a striking contrast to the rustic stone arbor below.
Merely descending into the Rose Garden does not mean bidding farewell to the slightly fragrant, oh-so-lovely Akebono blooms. Even a backward glance is breathtaking:
A view of the cherry allée from the Rose Garden. — Duke Gardens
Coming or going, morning or evening, it’s been a magnificent spring for Duke Gardens’ cherry allée.