The National Park Service announced peak bloom for 2023 cherry blossoms this week but the blossoms aren't all that DC has to offer as far as natural beauty goes!
First... why take pics in the spring? Fall is the undisputed seasonal champion for outdoor family sessions: between fall color and impending holiday card orders, its a popular choice. But it also means that your photographer's calendar fills fast while you are juggling your kiddo's sports seasons, naps schedules and fall time fun like the pumpkin patch or Cox Farm. If you haven't booked a session by September it can become a headache.
Enter spring, when temperatures are mild by mid morning and something is always blooming! Folks travel from around the world to see the Yoshino cherry trees gifted to the US from Japan at the Tidal Basin surrounding the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. If you live here, you may want to consider photos in the blooms at least once just to secure memories of this regional phenomenon.
If crowds make your skin crawl, it's not the only game in town. Here are lots of options to consider for family photography in March through April if you want to shift your yearly family photo plans to an easier, breezier season of the year.
(Pro tip: My very favorite option will be last. You can either skip ahead or be sure to read through - just don't miss it!)
Saucer Magnolias in the first weeks of March
My early springtime favorite, saucer magnolias are among the first DC plants to bloom just after forsythia and daffodils, peaking about two weeks before the cherry blossoms. My two favorite locations for these early spring vibes are Rawlins Park and the Enid A. Haupt Garden behind the Smithsonian Building, I included a few photos I took while downtown this week with a friend.
Pro-tip: Also very pink and blooming at about the same time are Okame cherry blossoms, there's a lovely row of them at Congressional Cemetery!
The Cherry Blossoms: late March to early April
Popular places to experience the blooms are The Tidal Basin downtown, the National Arboretum and my personal favorite, the Maryland neighborhood of Kenwood. Be ready for crowds, take metro where you can and make sure you have a stroller full of snacks! If you're visiting Kenwood, be sure take cash to support the neighborhood kids' lemonade stands. And please don't sit kids in the trees: many trees are old, their branches can be fragile, and you'll earn yourself some local wrath!
Even if you can't make it to the popular spots, cherry blossoms grow in almost every neighborhood so you're likely to have a few in yours with far fewer crowds! Plus, there are several varieties aside from Yoshino, all with varying bloom times, so if you are visiting the area and think you are too early or too late, you are right on time somewhere...
Pro tip: If you can't make peak happen don't worry: not only will there be fewer visitors to contend with, there are visual perks too. Blossoms appear more pink before all the buds are fully open. And after peak, the ground is covered in pale pink petals - making magic for babies and toddlers!
Reach out if you would like to schedule a session!
Tulips (early April) and Azaleas (late April to early May)
Tulips are abundant in both gardens and downtown around both the Capitol and the Tulip Library. So even if you miss the cherry blossoms there's still a bunch of spring yet to spring!
Azaleas are the unsung hero of DC spring IMO: lower to the ground and blooming in almost every shade of pink or purple you can imagine. Gardens worth visiting for photos include Greensprings on the VA side and Brookside Gardens on the MD side (not to divide us like that but... traffic y'all.) Be advised that both gardens require permits, advanced notice and may have associated fees so book with me ASAP if this is what you would like to do!
Your Front or Backyard - Anytime you love!
If you know me, my favorite choice is no surprise! Beauty is all around us, friends. And, lovely as gardens and iconic places to stroll may be, it's what's growing in your very own yard or local park year after year that your children will remember once they are grown up.
My mother planted a small hillside of lily of the valley, it was always the first thing in our yard to bloom. But I have no photos of us there.
A single Kwanzan cherry blossom tree stood just a few feet from our swingset growing up. Each spring my sister and I would take turns grabbing a branch and shaking it, raining fluffy pink petals on each other. I don't have a single photo of my sister and I playing in or around that tree in bloom. I think of it every year as I see Kwanzans bloom in my own neighborhood.
Even if you don't hire me, just think to take those photo for yourself and your kids as best you can. And if you do want the profesh shot, think about what you love seeing year after year that is outside your own front door. Oh - and its so much easier to incorporate our furry family members here too!