We celebrate the independence of the greatest country on earth this week. One freedom we may take for granted is the autonomy we have for the layout and decoration of our properties. During initial times of settlements, our lots would have been functional agricultural plots for family sustenance and community trading. As we moved away from reliance on agriculture, our farm plots were blank slates for landscaping pioneers, such as Thomas Jefferson.
The Forefathers of American Landscaping
Known as the original father of Landscape architecture in America, he helped the profession grow into a highly sought after trade during Colonial times. He was known for using masonry as his base or building block to landscape design. He was also known however to never restrict himself to one style or practice and for incorporating unique worldly designs and cultivars.
His affinity for landscaping could be noted by his timeline for building Monticello, as he was structuring, propagating, and planting designs on its land 2 years before even beginning construction. He even wrote a guide called “Garden Book” to share his ideas on things like grafting cherry trees and more.
The McMillan Plan
Even though the location of our nation’s Capitol was established by George Washington in 1791, substantial landscape planning hadn’t been established until 1910. Republican Senator James McMillan from Michigan headed a commission consisting of several well-known architects and one famous Landscape designer named Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. Olmsted would be responsible for the original designs and grounds plantings of the National Mall, the Capitol grounds, and the White House.
Olmsted’s father would later describe his son’s designs as “disorganized and confusing”, but these designs would ultimately be revered by visitors from all nations. Even inspiring a1912 donation of the now-famous Cherry Trees from Japan.
The Origins of the Famous D.C. Cherry Blossoms
After an almost 30 year campaign by Eliza Schidmore to bring Japanese Cherry Trees to the Capitol, Japan initially made a donation of 2,000 Cherry Trees to America on January 06, 1910. These trees however were found to be diseased and needed to be burned to protect local growers. On March 26, 1912, 3,020 new Japanese Cherry Trees arrived from Japan as a second donation. Tase subsequent donations were made as a symbol of friendship between the two countries, well before the whole “Pearl Harbor” tragedy.
Since then thousands more of these trees have been both donated by Japan and planted by private donors. In 1999 15 trees were planted that are said to be initially planted in Japan over 1500 years ago. Every Spring the D.C. Cherry Blossom Festival is a celebration of international cooperation, America’s beauty, and our nations roots of Landscape design and architecture.