The prize goes to this bee and the people of Essex County, New Jersey, whose Branch Brook Park in Newark has more than 5000 flowering cherry trees in 17 different varieties. Their blooms range from a pink-tinged white to deep fuchsia.
Branch Brook Park is the oldest county park in the nation. It was envisioned by Frederick Law Olmstead and based on his belief that all people, regardless of their station in society, should be able to enjoy fresh air, quiet, and the beauty of nature. In 1898 the park was completed under the direction of Olmstead's sons.
In 1927, members of the Bamberger family, owners of New Jersey's famous department store chain, donated 2000 flowering Japanese cherry trees to Newark to create a display that would rival that of Washington, DC. Over the years additional donations enlarged the collection.
In the early 1970s, after violence and neglect had devastated Newark, a group of citizens rallied to save the park and in 1976 the Newark Cherry Blossom Festival was established. Community participation has led to the rejuvenation of Branch Brook's landscape, structures, and plantings.
In 2015 Essex County announced the addition of 1000 more flowering cherry trees, bringing the total to 5000, surpassing Washington's cherry tree count of 3800 and securing Branch Brook Park's place as the home to the largest collection of cherry blossom trees in the nation.
This month Newark celebrates its 41st annual Cherry Blossom Festival at Branch Brook Park.
Anikka Becker celebrates with the 2017 Cherry Blossom Collection.