It’s the million dollar question Dennis Potts is accustomed to getting every year, sometimes from folks as far as Japan: When will those Kenwood Cherry Blossoms reach peak bloom?
As a general rule, the Kenwood trees reach peak bloom about three to four days after the Tidal Basin cherry trees, which are exposed to more sunlight.
With the National Park Service estimating an April 8-April 11 range for peak bloom downtown, you can expect the roughly 1,200 Kenwood cherry trees to hit the peak bloom period anywhere from April 12-20, Potts said.
The Bethesda neighborhood by now is well known as “the other” spot to check out cherry trees in the Washington area. With people taking leisurely walks through the neighborhood, sitting in grassy medians and slowly driving through, the trees provide the festive atmosphere that defines Kenwood.
“It’s a unique attribute and obviously a beautiful feature for what is a very cohesive, close, collegial neighborhood,” said Jim Alexander, a resident and member of the Kenwood Citizens Association. “It’s a rallying point because the preservation and care of the trees is of paramount importance to the neighborhood.”
That preservation and care doesn’t come for free.
Potts grew up in the neighborhood and coordinates the logistics of hiring off-duty Montgomery County Police officers for traffic control and security.
“With the amount of people that come here, it’s why we have to have a program to make it safe for the residents and for the people from outside the neighborhood,” Potts said. “Everybody’s in a good mood and everybody’s looking up. You’ve got children, grandmothers in wheelchairs, kids and dogs and a lot of things going on. Then you look up and you can get mesmerized by the trees so to speak.”
Potts is often also the guy people call for information on the trees, which have become the less crowded alternative to cherry blossom gazing at the Tidal Basin. Potts said he’ll get calls from reporters throughout the year, and from all over the world.
The trees were planted by the developer of the neighborhood back in the 1930s and 1940s as a marketing tool to attract families to what was then the outer reaches of suburbia.
More trees were added and seven years ago, Potts and the citizens association decided to organize for safety, to keep people off private property and to discourage people from climbing on the trees. Potts said the citizens association works with Montgomery County to replace 20-50 cherry trees a year.
Some are as old as the neighborhood itself. The trees are the basis for a number of neighborhood events and events attracting people from outside the community. There’s a neighborhood cherry blossom party each year, a community garden club and even a Volksmarch guided walk club.
“It’s phenomenal and it’s really, really unique. We’ve had them for roughly 70 years,” Potts said. “We want to be proactive in protecting them so they can be around for 70 years into the future.”