Cherry Blossom Festival at Botanical Gardens, Perfect Outing w/ Kids

It’s been 100 years since the Japanese gift of cherry trees to the U.S., and as a frustrated gardener, I say anything that can bloom reliably for that long deserves a festival.

If you’ve never been, make plans to enjoy the Birmingham Botanical Gardens’ Cherry Blossom Festival on Saturday, March 17, 2012. Just come over after your obligatory morning baseball game or birthday party and have some relaxing outdoor family time.

Relaxing? Yes. Experience the positive tension of yin and yang in a garden setting, in powerful contrast to the usual yeh-yeh tension in your car’s back seat. You’ll be amazed by the serenity in the Garden even with other visitors walking the paths to check out Japenese-themed exhibits. Turns out a lake and a pagoda can do wonders for an uptight mom and even her overexcited kids.  It’s as close as you can get to a spa without a waffle weave robe and a few candles.

Be on the lookout for paper parasols and kimonas along with several bonsai that rate proper study (these meticulously groomed trees make you feel daring for trimming your own bangs). Last year’s festival featured a book of condolences for the survivors of the Fukushima tsunami, a thoughtful tribute that was therapeutic as well. One year later, it’s amazing to think that a culture famous for such serenity in garden design could have experienced such massive disruption.

Besides the subtle design, the Japanese Garden is restful because it doesn’t shame us into thinking we need to go plant a boxwood parterre and fill it with kitchen herbs. Instead it gets us thinking that there must be a way to convert the back yard into a rock garden, roll a few boulders into the middle and be done with it.