Hanami: the Japanese are so keen on hunting down spring blossom they even have a word for it. The term “Hanami” translates loosely as “flower viewing” and it’s a huge deal in Japan. Located in the southern hemisphere, New Zealand doesn’t welcome spring until September, of course, so where should you be looking if you want to get your blossom fix? Here’s your guide to New Zealand cherry blossom festivals.
Time your visit for one of New Zealand cherry blossom festivals
The festivities kick off at 11am on 15th September in Hastings as it hosts its popular blossom parade. This annual event sees plenty of floats and people in costume along the parade route. Thousands turn out to watch the spectacle. A week later, the longest running festival of its kind in the country, Central Otago’s Alexandra Blossom Festival, takes place this year between 21st and 24th September. It looks set to be as much of a success as in previous years. The Miyazu Garden in Napier is also gearing up for a repeat event. It marks the ongoing ties between the town and its Japanese twin with its own festivities on the 23rd September. Newbie Waikato Cherry Tree Festival, which hosted its first event in 2017, is set to bring it back from 21st to 23rd September. Organisers promise stilt walkers, face painters and Japanese drummers alongside the riot of pink blossom.
Visit one of the country’s excellent botanic gardens
Plenty of time and effort goes into maintaining the specimens in botanical gardens. As such, you’re guaranteed a good show if you time it right. Auckland Botanic Gardens is no exception. Its Spring Blossom Valley will be a delight this autumn. This year in early October the ABG is putting on a special event with a twist – to celebrate spring the Chinese way. There will be a dragon dance, Chinese calligraphy, Chinese music; and a demonstration of Qi Gong to accompany those all important blooms.
Further south, in Christchurch, the Botanic Gardens in Hagley Park will also feature blossom. New Zealand cherry blossom festivals in September is usually a good time to see the trees covered in tiny pink flowers, as well as magnolias, camellias and spring bulbs.
Take a walk on one of the country’s many parks
You don’t have to visit a botanic garden to view the displays. There are many “ordinary” parks dotting around the country with trees that will provide that much sought after colour. A short distance south of Christchurch, Ashburton Domain is often a good bet, with plenty of prunus trees lining the paths of this 37ha park. There’s also an abundance of the blooms in Kaitoke Country Gardens in Upper Hutt, as well as Auckland’s Cornwall Park.
The Japanese believe that if you catch a single petal in your hand before it falls to the ground, your wish will come true. Why not head to one of these locations – it can’t hurt to try, can it?