It’s the 100th anniversary of Washington, D.C.’s cherry blossoms, which arrived in 1912 when the mayor of Tokyo gifted the nation’s capital some 3,000 cherry trees. But here at Mount Vernon it’s the 200th-something anniversary of George Washington’s cherry trees. And unlike those at the Tidal Basin, Washington’s actually produced fruit.
Today there are three in the upper garden (see above), but in Washington’s day there were five there that we know of, in addition to those that he grew in his orchard. It’s the fruit for which Washington is best-known due to the fabricated tale of a young George who could not tell a lie. In reality, Washington’s involvement with the cherry tree was strictly culinary — their fruit was eaten fresh, preserved, turned into candy, baked into desserts and incorporated in cherry bounce, a popular 18th-century cocktail.
Grafting of cherry trees was generally done in March and harvesting was done in June. Washington grew bullock hearts, carnation cherries, winter and summer boon cherries, duke cherries and marellas. Cherries, apples, pears and strawberries were some of the most frequently grown fruits at the estate. In sum, Washington planted a good many more cherry trees than he ever fictitiously felled.
Research on George Washington and cherries was provided by Mount Vernon research historian Mary Thompson.