Heirloom vs Hybrid Tomatoes

Tomato season is upon us and there are so many varieties available. How do you choose which to grow? The first step is to understand the differences between heirloom and hybrid tomatoes. Both varieties have their stengths and weaknesses. Read on to learn more!

HEIRLOOM TOMATOES photo credit : Lisa Toutner

HEIRLOOM

Heirloom tomatoes are varieties that have been grown without cross-pollination for at least 40 years. They are open-pollinated, which means pollinated by insects or wind without human intervention. That allows them to remain stable in their characteristics from one year to the next. Gardeners appreciate their consistency in taste and agree that most heirloom varieties tend to have greater flavor than hybrids. Heirlooms are often grown locally and allowed to ripen on the vine which affects their flavor. They often produce only a small number of fruit. Since they have not had the selective crossbreeding as hybrids, Heirloom Tomatoes tend to be more susceptible to pest disease, especially fungus, which makes them crack and split.

 HEIRLOOM PLUSES

  • STABILITY: Heirlooms produce large numbers of seeds and bear tomatoes identical to parents
  • TASTE: Heirlooms are considered flavorful, and even superior to commercially-produced varieties
  • DISEASE-RESISTANCE: More susceptible to disease.
  • INDIVIDUALITY: Many heirlooms have unique shapes and sport a variety of colors, including purple, yellow, white, orange, pink, red, green, black and striped.

 HEIRLOOM MINUSES

  • INDIVIDUALITY: Unusual, misshapen or inconsistent tomatoes.
  • PRODUCTIVITY: Heirlooms take longer to mature and produce fewer tomatoes than hybrids.

HEIRLOOM TOMATOES photo credit

HYBRID

Hybrid tomatoes typically yield a crop that is uniform in both appearance and timing. Typical supermarket tomatoes are hybrids that have been carefully crossbred to achieve a desired combination.  Some of those characteristics may be bigger in size, better disease resistance, dependability, less required care, early maturity, higher yield, and/or specific plant size.

 HYBRID PLUSES

  • PRODUCTIVITY: You'll harvest more tomatoes
  • DISEASE-RESISTANCE: Hybrids have a reputation for not being as susceptible to diseases and pests as their heirloom counterparts.
  • STRENGTH: Hybrids are known for yielding tomatoes of similar size and with fewer blemishes.
  • LONGEVITY: Harvested hybrid tomatoes have staying power. They endure the long hours on at the roadside farm stand better than heirlooms

 HYBRID MINUSES

  • FLAVOR: Most gardeners agree that hybrids are not as flavorful as heirlooms
  • INSTABILITY: Long term hybrids don't produce seeds as strong as what birthed them- according to experts. However, many gardeners claim they save hybrid seeds year to year which produce seedlings and fruit that is true to the original hybrid.

At Vineyard Gardens we carry both hybrid and heirloom tomatoes. A few of the  hybrids we carry are Burpees Big Boy and Big Beef, two of the largest ones, and Celebrity, a midsize disease resistant variety that we have carried for years.

BIG BEEF-hybrid tomato

CELEBRITY -hybrid tomato

BURPEES BIG BOY - hybrid tomato

HEIRLOOM TOMATOES VARIETIES at VINEYARD GARDENS

AUNT RUBY'S GERMAN GREEN TOMATO OG (85 days) Open-pollinated. Indeterminate. “The biggest surprise I’ve ever experienced in tomatoes,” said the late Chuck Wyatt, vintage tomato collector. Until you try it, you won’t believe a green tomato could be this good. I rate it second only to Brandywine for flavor and it is on just about everyone’s top-ten list. Oblate 12–16 oz fruits blush lightly yellow and develop an amber-pink tinge on the blossom end when ripe. Don’t allow them to get too soft before picking. The green flesh of this beefsteak is faintly marbled with pink. Flavor sweet and tart, rich and spicy. The central large tomatoes are the best. Flavor deteriorates when cold weather sets in. Created a sensation at a staff taste test in September 1996, where it was rated “good” or “excellent” by all who tried it. [Wow, that long ago! I still grow and love it based on that test. -ed.] Aunt Ruby’s is not just the best green eating tomato, it also makes a delicious basis for salsa verde. Originally from Ruby Arnold’s German immigrant grandfather, introduced in the 1993 Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook by Bill Minkey of Darien, Wisc. Nominated to Slow Food’s Ark of Taste.

AUNT RUBY'S GERMAN GREEN TOMATO

BLACK KRIM TOMATO OG (80 days) Open-pollinated. Indeterminate. Don’t wait too long to harvest this delicate heirloom tomato. At half green and still firm they are already dead ripe and perfectly delicious. If you wait till they are fully purple, you will not be able to get them from garden to table intact (to say nothing of market) and they will disintegrate like a hunk of road-kill. Krims are strikingly iridescent purple on the outside, usually with dark green-black shoulders and noticeable catfacing. Interiors are part black, too, with an unusual juicy yet meaty taste and texture, described as having “…a smoky flavor like a good single malt scotch.” Fruits average 12–18 oz. Krim hails from Krymsk on the Black Sea in Russia.

BLACK KRIM TOMATO

CHEROKEE PURPLE TOMATO OG (77 days) Open-pollinated. Indeterminate. but with relatively short vines. No list of the best-tasting heirloom tomatoes would be complete without Cherokee Purple, an unusual variety from Tennessee said to have originated with the Cherokee Indians. Fruits are globes to slightly oblate, averaging 10–13 oz, with dusky brownish-purple skin, dark green shoulders and brick-red flesh. The real attraction is their rich taste, described as “sweet rich juicy winey,” “delicious sweet,” and “rich Brandywine flavor” by aficionados maintaining it in the Seed Savers Exchange. Ranks in my top five for flavor. Expect some concentric cracking. Amy LeBlanc suggests the vines should not be pruned because the delicate fruits sunburn easily. Indigenous Royalties. ①②

GARDEN PEACH TOMATO  OG (71 days) Open-pollinated. Indeterminate. Yellow fruits blush pink when ripe and have thin fuzzy skins somewhat like peaches, soft-skinned, juicy and very sweet. Light fruity taste is not what you’d expect in a tomato. Burpee in 1893 called it “delicate, melting in the mouth like a grape.” For well over a century savvy gardeners have brought Peach’s little 2–4 oz fruits indoors before frost to keep for several weeks. Jim Stockwell from North Carolina would not be without it. “Not only are they early and prolific but their unusual flavor and no core sizes make them perfect for grilling without falling apart.” Doreen Mundie says also wonderful dried. Amy Goldman places its 1890 origins with plant breeder Elbert S. Carman, owner and editor of The Rural New-Yorker. It was introduced the 1890 catalog of Hallock & Son’s of Queens, NY. Showed some tolerance to LB in Colrain in 2014.

GARDEN PEACH TOMATO

GREEN ZEBRA TOMATO  OG (77 days) Open-pollinated. Indeterminate. A most unusual beast in the tomato menagerie, this zebra starts out green with darker green stripes, softening and blushing yellow and apricot when it ripens. It might have remained a mere curiosity but for its delicious sweet rich flavor. Small-medium 4–5 oz fruits are emerald green inside. Perfect exteriors hold up under adverse conditions and don’t crack. “The perfect salad tomato,” says Anne Elder of Ann Arbor, Mich. “Tried Green Zebra for the first time last year. The tomatoes were a big hit with our customers,” said Tammy Martin of Ruckamuck Farm in Milbridge, Maine. Sometimes incorrectly shows up on lists of heirloom tomatoes, but was developed by Tom Wagner of Tater Mater Seeds in 1985 from four heirlooms. Kent Whealy ranks it in his top ten tomatoes. Susceptible to SEPT.

GREEN ZEBRA TOMATO

PINEAPPLE TOMATO OG (85 days) Open-pollinated. Indeterminate. Garden author Michelle Owen says, “I roast…these exceptionally sweet red-streaked yellow tomatoes…in a hot oven, then sauté with ridiculous amounts of garlic, rosemary and extra virgin olive oil and throw over pasta. Before I face the firing squad, I will ask for this as my last meal.” With its silky smooth texture and complex fruity taste, Pineapple may be the best striped tomato. Typically grows huge fruits in excess of 1 lb that get a little funky cosmetically. Fruits hold tight to stems so bring scissors to your harvest. Cut in half, it looks like the interior of a pineapple except with yellow and red marbling. It doesn’t taste like a pineapple, though, nor like a typical red tomato, either. Its unique mild low-acid fruity sweetness needs a fruit name all its own. Originally from Kentucky, but our seed stock came from Martha Gottlieb of Common Ground Fair Exhibition Hall fame.

PINK BRANDYWINE TOMATO  OG (82 days) Open-pollinated. Indeterminate. with potato-leaf foliage. Pink Brandywine is the heirloom that launched a movement, leading many gardeners to be flavor-positive preservation-aware seed-savers. As Brandywine’s popularity exploded, so did its production as commercial bulk seed. But like all heirlooms, our favorite old-fashioned OPs with their hand-selected hand-me-down genetics need special care. Fedco Seeds has partnered with Daniel and Corinne at Blackbird Rise of Palermo, Maine, to keep building the Brandywine legacy. For four summers, they’ve grown hundreds of plants from our classic Sudduth/Quisenberry strain, selecting for that perfect Brandywine color, flavor, bountiful size and shape that says “homegrown comfort.” The result is this extra-select strain of large oblate pink meaty beefsteaks, trending away from small-fruited, less-vigorous and late-ripening traits. Of course, that precious balanced deep flavor with perfect hints of tart still rings true! Oblate meaty beefsteak fruits average right around a pound, ripening unevenly throughout the season, often preferring cool early fall to peak heat of August.

PINK BRANDYWINE TOMATO

ROSE DE BERNE TOMATO OG (80 days) Open-pollinated. Indeterminate. This Swiss émigré could be considered the Brandywine of continental Europe. Like Brandywine, has many strains, and is widely considered in France, Germany and Switzerland to be the best-flavored tomato. Only medium-sized yet delivers the robust flavor of the bigger types. It bested some formidable competition in my trials—including June Pink, Gulf State Market and the celebrated Eva Purple Ball—with a rich sweetness the others couldn’t match. I enjoyed one juicy 5 oz translucent smooth pink fruit after another. No slouch in the appearance department either, the unblemished globes are perfectly round, the soft skins not excessively fragile and the color and size very attractive, making it another excellent field-to-market variety that does not require high tunnels. Some LB tolerance. ①②

RUTGERS 250 TOMATO  OG (76 days) Open-pollinated. Semi-Indeterminate. For years we’ve fruitlessly searched for worthy hybrid beefsteaks, just something with flavor and texture beyond packing peanuts. So far, all we’ve found are insipid red blobs. Surprising us in a 2017 trial of newly released open-pollinated slicers was Rutgers 250, a super-uniform tomato that looks and performs like a hybrid, but with flavor! Rutgers University tomato breeders went back to the parents used to breed our original Rutgers strain, and lightning struck twice. This ½ lb deep red slicer is smooth, solid, and blemish and crack free. It’s a perfect palm size, holding and ripening off the vine for at least 10 days. And a real sandwich-maker: tangy-tart with tomato-y depth, and lightly sweet. While touted as a “retro re-release,” the former and latter Rutgers versions are very different tomatoes; 250 ripens a little later than the original, the immature skin color is paler green and the plant is a head shorter. And 250 is more productive and has modern market looks and savvy. But it’s also meaty, juicy and firm without being hybrid fiberboard dry or grainy. NEW!

RUTGERS 250 TOMATO

WEISNICHT'S UKRAINIAN TOMATO OG (85 days) Open-pollinated. Compact Indeterminate. with potato-leaf foliage. Thanks to Ryan Voiland of Red Fire Farm in Granby, Mass., for helping put this little known but extremely tasty heirloom on the map. In 2015 at the 31st annual Massachusetts Tomato Contest in Boston, Voiland won first prize in the heirloom category for his entry of Weisnicht’s Ukranian. A panel of food writers, chefs, produce experts and state officials judged the tomatoes on flavor, firmness/slicing quality, exterior color and shape. Mine in Colrain, though not entered, did pretty well in the size and yield categories as well. We received the original seeds for this scrumptious pink tomato from Scott Weisnicht of Waupun, Wisc., in 2004 and in my trials that year it received an unusually high 4–4.5 out of 5 taste evaluation, #1 among the 43 varieties I grew that cold wet summer. In 2013, I savored my first fruit in Colrain on Sept. 4, the flavor sweet, rich and complex with delicious acid overtones. Often bi-lobed, the medium-large 8–18 oz fruits are sparse seed bearers. They begin producing in late August or early September with a 3–4 week moderately productive main harvest period. Scott Weisnicht also supplied us with our first seeds for the much-revered rare Pride of Wisconsin melon.

BLACK CHERRY TOMATO OG (75 days) Open-pollinated. Indeterminate. Two-bite cherries (avg 14–28g) with the dusky color and complex flavor typical of the best black tomatoes, juicy and delicious. Somewhat late for a cherry tomato, fruit ripens slowly and individually until frost, but worth the wait. Examine each plant closely at picking time: the dark-hued cherries are easy to lose in the foliage. Best flavor if left to ripen on the vine till nice and dark. Seems to tolerate the usual tomato diseases but fruits will crack readily in rainy weather. Combine with Sun Gold and any bright red cherry for a lovely display. Brix 7. Developed by Vince Sapp of Tomato Growers Supply and released 2003.

BLACK CHERRY TOMATO

FARGO YELLOW PEAR CHERRY TOMATO OG (82 days) Open-pollinated. Vigorous Determinate. Introduced 1934 by Oscar Will & Co. of Bismarck, ND, yet another of famous breeder AF Yaeger’s creations. He crossed Bison with Yellow Pear for earliness and higher yields. Each plant produces about three dozen sweet tasty 1 oz fruits. About twice the size of regular pear tomatoes, the meaty morsels are crack resistant.

FARGO YELLOW PEAR CHERRY TOMATO

HONEYDROP CHERRY TOMATO ECO (62 days) Open-pollinated. Rampant Indeterminate. From a selection of F-1 Sunsugar, Rachel and Tevis Robertson-Goldberg of Crabapple Farm in Chesterfield, MA, developed Honeydrop and sent us the original seed, with their blessing to keep the production going. Honeydrop’s sweet juicy fruity honey-colored treats taste almost like white grapes. They are much less prone to cracking in wet weather than Sun Gold. Seeking to add another light-colored cherry to our selection, we trialed it against Blondkopchen, Dr. Carolyn, Isis Candy, Lemondrop and Weissbehart. It bested them all by such a wide margin in earliness, sweetness and complexity that we declined to add any of those others. Parthenocarpic. Still retains a percentage of recessive pink off-types but see Pink Princess; these are also yummy! OSSI. Breeder Royalties. BACK!

SUN GOLD CHERRY TOMATO  (57 days) F-1 hybrid. Indeterminate. To quote one customer, “Without these little babies, there’s no summer.” A perfect combination of deep sweetness with a hint of acid tartness, so good that for almost a decade it took away our incentive to trial cherry tomatoes because no others could match it. In a field replete with choices, we are drawn to Sun Gold like candy. What is its elusive alluring tang? Quart after quart grace the table, yet we rarely reach surfeit July through September. Small fruits averaging 8.2g, borne in prolific clusters, ripen very early to a rich apricot color and keep producing till frost. Very prone to split so pick early when rains are forecast. Brix 8. Resists F1, TMV.

SUN GOLD CHERRY TOMATO

SUPER SWEET 100 CHERRY TOMATO (78 days) F-1 hybrid. Indeterminate. Like the famous Sweet 100, but with more disease resistance. Very popular hybrid cherry tomato ripens clusters of 1" round sweet fruits. Should be staked. Will split in rainy conditions. Resistant to V and F1.

AMISH PASTE TOMATO  OG (85 days) Open-pollinated. Indeterminate. Always one of the most popular items in the Seed Savers Exchange. Listed members’ comments tell all: “large red meaty fruit,” “wonderful paste variety,” “great flavor for cooking, canning or fresh eating,” “the standard by which I judge canning tomatoes,” “huge production,” “great for sauces, salsa, canning.” Strong producer of oxheart fruits up to 8 oz with thick bright red flesh. Larger and better than Roma. Flavor has been consistently good even in poor tomato years. Wisconsin heirloom from Amish farmers in the 1870s, first surfaced in the 1987 SSE Yearbook. We have observed some inherent variation, based on how this variety responds to its environment. Needs room and good nutrition to set mostly nippled fruits. Crowding, shading or stress reduces fruit size and nippling. Boarded Slow Food’s Ark of Taste.

AMISH PASTE TOMATO

BLUE BEECH PASTE TOMATO ECO (90 days) Open-pollinated. Indeterminate. This large elongated paste tomato won our sauce test in 1997, besting several well-known varieties. We received seed from Annette Smith of Blue Beech Farm in Danby, Vt., and have named the variety in her honor. Smith got the tomato from her neighbor’s niece’s uncle who brought it to Vermont from Italy during World War II. This Roma type has been acclimated in chilly Vermont for the last 50 years, so it is better adapted to cold climates than Roma. Some years it makes a richly textured sweet sauce that’s just brimming with flavor. “Also very fine for fresh eating,” says Lillian Kuo of Orleans, Mass. Fruits, not very seedy, averaging 6–8 oz, often have green shoulders. Needs long season, but our increasingly mild extended falls have facilitated ripening. 1999 Fedco introduction. BACK!

TICK PREVENTION AND SAFETY

It's the time of year when you need to be extra vigilant about checking yourself for ticks. The University of Rhode Island TickEncounter Resource Center website is filled with important information for tick prevention, helping identify ticks and other tick questions you may have. If you do find a tick you can submit a photo to tickencounter or you can send the tick to TickReport, a lab at UMass for testing.  Once Tick Report receives your tick it will identify in 2-3days any disease causing microbes the tick may be carrying, including pathogens that cause Lyme disease. These are wonderful services to ensure your prevention and safety from tick bites!

Just in time for Mother's Day!

Our Monrovia Georgia order arrived this morning! Vineyard Gardens is now filled with beautiful Tropicals, ferns, hydrangeas, grasses, roses, hollies and much much more! We also have gorgeous flowering baskets for Mother's Day!

Mandevillas

Hibiscus

Lantana

Mandevillas

Bougainvillea

Hydrangea

Butterfly Bush (Buddleia)

Flowering Basket for Mother's Day

Flowering Basket for Mother's Day

New arrivals at Vineyard Gardens Nursery!

Our nursery is bursting with spring colors and flavors! Gorgeous plants have arrived from Monrovia and Proven Winners. Yesterday we unloaded a truck of Forsythia, Andromedas, Rhododendrons and Leyland Cypress. And Vineyard Gardens edibles are ready to be planted in your garden today! We will help get your gardens ready for summer!

ANNUALS

Verbena

Kalanchoe

Cinerarias

Bacopa

Euryops yellow daisy

NEW ARRIVALS from MONROVIA

Tropicals from Monrovia

Rosemary from Monrovia

Rosemary from Monrovia

NEW ARRIVALS from PROVEN WINNERS

STRAWBERRIES

Now is the time to plant your strawberries! On Saturday May 12th at 11:00am, Chuck Wiley of Vineyard Gardens will be giving a hands on workshop/demonstration about planting, growing and harvesting blueberries, raspberries, black berries and strawberries.

PEAS, LEEKS and GREENS

Peas

Leeks

ANDROMEDAS, RHODODENDRONS, LEYLAND CYPRESS AND FORSYTHIA

Unloading the truck

Andromeda

Rhododendrons and Leyland Cypress

Forsythia
 

MAY GARDEN WORKSHOP SCHEDULE

Come and join us at Vineyard Gardens Nursery every Saturday in May at 11am for the very informative and enjoyable gardening workshops!

MAY 5th - RAISED VEGETABLE BED GARDENS
Raised vegetable bed gardening workshop with Sue Lavalee, of Coast of Maine.

MAY 12th - SMALL FRUITS
A hands on workshop/demonstration about planting, growing and harvesting blueberries, raspberries, black berries and strawberries with Chuck Wiley
of Vineyard Gardens.

MAY 19th - GROWING HERBS
Workshop on growing your own herbs led by Irene Fox, who runs
the Vineyard Gardens herb house.

MAY 26th - CONTAINER GARDENING
Find out the key to container gardening. A workshop on planting your own container follows lecture.  Led by Kathy James of Vineyard Gardens.

2018 MAY GARDEN WORKSHOP SCHEDULE

TRAVELING THROUGH TASTE

Traveling is an amazing way to ignite the senses! The smells, tastes and colors that line the streets get logged into your memory and last a lifetime. On Chris and Chuck Wiley's recent adventure through Thailand they immersed themselves in the local culture and cuisine of Chiang Mai, the largest city in Northern Thailand. The city has over 300 Buddhist Temples ("Wat" in Thai) and is in close proximity to the Ping River, as well as beautiful national parks. While in Chiang Mai, Chris and Chuck took a cooking class to immerse themselves in the Thai cuisine and learn about the produce and herbs grown in Thailand. They explored the local market to purchase fresh ingredients for the feast. They made curry pastes from scratch and proceeded to make multiple Thai dishes. An experience and flavor of a lifetime! (Recipes at the end of post).

Chiang Mai Market

Chiang Mai Market

Chiang Mai Market

Chiang Mai Market

Red curry paste

Spices

 Masaman Curry

Masaman Curry

Red Curry

Chris Wiley

Chuck Wiley

A few weeks later I was lucky enough to explore the local produce markets in southern Thailand with them. Chris was excited to see and taste anything that was new and different. She brings that same enthusiasm for life with her to Vineyard Gardens Nursery. She loves exposing her customers to a variety of edibles that they may not know. Her excitement for edibles is contagious which encourages customers to push their boundaries and try to plant a new flavor. Experiencing something different in your garden can help you grow as an individual as you are helping your plants grow!

SOME EXAMPLES OF THE  COOL WEATHER CROPS AVAILABLE AT VINEYARD GARDENS AND READY TO BE PLANTED TODAY. (Warm weather crops will be available in May)

Gustus Brussels Sprouts

Walla Walla Sweet Spanish Onion

BloomsdaleSpinach

Tatsoi

Garnet Giant Asian Green

Shuko Pac Choy

Golden Chard OG

Osaka Purple Mustard OG

Astro Arugula OG

Red Salad Bowl

Now that spring is here it may be fun to experiment with new edibles in your garden or at your dinner table. The edibles from Vineyard Gardens can take you around the world in one dining experience from Asian salads to Portuguese kale soups to Thai curries. We will be selling many varieties of Asian greens, Chinese cabbage, bok choy, kale, mustards, collards, lettuce, swiss Chard, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, leeks, onions and celery. We are also seeding jiffy pots of two pea varieties, the shelling kind and snow peas. Cool weather veggies packs are now available through the end of May. It's important to start getting these cool weather loving veggies in the ground and also a great time to plant strawberries, asparagus and other small fruit like blueberries and raspberries. Talk to Vineyard Gardens for specific planting guidelines.

Below are links to a couple recipes to get you started on your cooking journey. 

THAI RED CURRY WITH KALE

KALE SOUP WITH POTATOES AND SAUSAGE

Thai Red Curry with Kale

Kale Soup with Potatoes and Sausage

RECIPES FROM THE CHIANG MAI COOKING CLASS

PRUNING DAMAGED TREES

We have had three windy and heavy snow storms this March leading to tree damage around the island and potentially in your own backyard. Cracked or broken branches can’t heal themselves like bones so the best practice is to remove them. Trying to retain them with cables or such will almost always fail over time. Damaged and dead branches should be pruned back as soon as possible to prevent disease from entering the plant.  Deadwood can also be removed at any point during the year, as it can harbor and attract insects and fungal diseases. 

Remove the damaged branches by cutting them off back to a healthy branch. Make the cut roughly a half inch past the intersection of the two branches. There should be a slight swelling at this intersection, leave the swelling on the tree, that is where the tree will callous and seal off the wound.

source


Evergreens that have lost their leader or top most branch will normally regrow. If they form multiple leaders the strongest central one should be chosen and the others cut back. Cut them back at least a foot below the main one and they should not grow past the new central branch.

Most deciduous shrubs, those that loose their leaves, can be pruned very hard in the  early spring and will regrow. They may not flower the first year but will do so in subsequent years. This hard pruning can apply to any overgrown deciduous shrub. Good candidates are forsythia , lilac, viburnum and privet.

Early Spring is a great time to prune most plant material.  Since the plants are dormant, pruning won’t affect their ability to generate energy, like it would if there were leaves present.  It also makes it much easier to see the structure of the plant and remove any unhealthy branches.  Caution must be taken to avoid removing flower buds for the upcoming growing season. 

Tools:  Always use shape pruners, loppers, and saws.  It is recommended that tools be sterilized between pruning jobs to prevent passing fungal disease from one plant to another, or from one location to another property even.

Here is a good link for pruning damaged trees. 

The gift of Cherry Blossoms

We're a day late on this historical event but it gets us excited for the cherry blossoms on Martha's Vineyard...

Views of Washington Monument, Cherry Blossoms and Tidal Basin. Theodor Horydczak, photographer, ca. 1920-1950. Horydczak Collection. Prints & Photographs Division

Today in History - March 27

March 27

"On March 27, 1912, First Lady Helen Herron Taft and the Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted two Yoshino cherry trees on the northern bank of the Potomac River Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. The event celebrated the Japanese government’s gift of 3,000 trees to the United States. Trees were planted along the Potomac Tidal Basin near the site of the future Jefferson Memorial, in East Potomac Park, and on the White House grounds.

Views of Washington Monument, Cherry Blossoms and Tidal Basin. Theodor Horydczak, photographer, ca. 1920-1950. Horydczak Collection. Prints & Photographs Division

The text of First Lady Taft’s letter, along with the story of the cherry trees, is available from the National Park Service’s official Cherry Blossom Festival Web site. A timeline of significant events is also included.

Fifty-three years later, the Japanese government made a second gift of 3,800 cherry trees. In 1965, Mrs. Ryuji Takeuchi, wife of Ambassador Takeuchi, and First Lady Lady Bird Johnson participated in the ceremonial planting. This time, the trees were planted on the grounds of the Washington Monument.

Mrs. William Howard Taft… cMarch 16, 1909. First Ladies of the United States: Selected Images From the Collections of the Library of Congress. Prints & Photographs Division

The planting of cherry trees along the Potomac fulfilled travel writer and photographer Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore’s long and determined quest. Returning from her first trip to Japan in 1885, Scidmore advanced the idea of bringing the trees to the District of Columbia with U.S. government officials. She was ignored.

In 1909, Scidmore decided to raise money for the purchase of the trees herself. She wrote of her plans to the new First Lady, Helen Herron Taft, and received an enthusiastic response. “I have taken the matter up,” the First Lady wrote Mrs. Scidmore, “and am promised the trees.” Upon learning of the First Lady’s plans, the Japanese consul in New York broached the idea of making a gift of the trees to the U.S. government." Library of Congress

Mrs. William Howard Taft… cMarch 16, 1909. First Ladies of the United States: Selected Images From the Collections of the Library of Congress. Prints & Photographs Division