History is being reimagined at Reynolda Gardens with cherry tree allée revival
Largest display of cherry trees in the Carolinas will be on view this Spring
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (Dec.10, 2020)—Reynolda Gardens of Wake Forest University is reimagining history with the complete renovation of the estate’s weeping cherry trees and the revival of the estate’s original cherry tree allée. The cherry trees will bloom this Spring in Reynolda Gardens to the north, east and west sides of the formal gardens.
The cherry tree project was made possible through the support of Barbara and Nik Millhouse.
Barbara Babcock Millhouse, granddaughter of R.J. and Katharine Smith Reynolds, and daughter of Mary Reynolds and Charles Babcock, was the museum’s founding president and driving force behind the establishment of the Reynolda House art collection.
The Japanese cherry trees, originally designed by Thomas Sears in 1917 to flank the formal gardens, have long been a Reynolda attraction.
In 1951 Mary Reynolds Babcock noted “It was said by a Japanese visitor that this(Reynolda’s) planting of weeping Japanese cherry trees with boxwood and magnolia soulangeana and cryptomerias is even more beautiful than any in Japan. When the cherry trees are in bloom, thousands of visitors come from all over the country to see it (the Garden).”
Over the years, though, the native cherry trees have aged out, which is very typical of certain ornamental trees, and the mature ones still existing in the garden are at the end of their life.
“The full cherry tree allée has not been on view as intended in almost 50 years,” said Jon Roethling, director of Reynolda Gardens. Roethling explained that although an oak can live 100 years, a flowering cherry may only live 25 years.
An allée is traditionally defined as a feature of the French formal garden that is both a promenade and an extension of a garden view.
Forty-four trees will be planted this month to form the allée — six parallel to the greenhouses and 19 along the east and west sides of the greenhouse gardens. The same variety will replace what will be removed — Prunus subhirtella ‘Pendula,’ also known as Weeping Higan Cherry. The new trees will be about 15 feet tall with a 4- to 5-inch trunk caliper.
Work has been already underway to prepare for the arrival of the trees. The team at the Gardens has reworked the soil to allow for proper drainage and irrigation and will complete an anti-borer preventative treatment on the trees.
“Large weeping cherries are susceptible to borers, insect attacks and disease. They also have a habit of prematurely dropping their leaves in late summer, long before any other tree,” explained Roethling. “Using a combination of fresh new soil and preventative insect and disease treatments, the new cherries should be able to live long, healthy lives.”
In addition to removing the remnants of the old trees before planting the new ones and completing critical drainage and irrigation work, the Gardens team is laying the groundwork to add electricity to the formal gardens so that outdoor lighting can be added throughout the formal gardens and near the cherry trees.
In addition to the cherry tree project, the tea houses in the formal gardens are getting new cedar roofs, paint and plantings thanks to the support of Wendy and Mike Brenner, and plans are underway to offer additional trail navigation support.
“We have launched a campaign called Grow with Reynolda Gardens in order to complete short term, high impact projects,” said Roethling, director of Reynolda Gardens. “We are excited by the opportunity to renovate the cherry trees and to invest in the Gardens further through a series of enhancements and additions that will allow us to better serve our community.
The cherry tree renovation project is expected to be completed by the end of this year. During the renovation process, parking and access to the formal gardens will be limited.
Roethling said he is excited to offer visitors a sense of beautiful Spring renewal right here in Winston-Salem once the trees bloom in March or early April. “There won’t be any need to drive to D.C. when you’ve got beautiful cherries right in your own backyard.”
Reynlda Gardens is open from dawn to dusk daily free of charge. Its greenhouse is currently closed. To learn more about Reynolda Gardens, visit reynoldagardens.org or connect on Facebook @Reynolda.Gardens and Instagram at @reynoldagardenswfu. Learn about the Grow with Reynolda Gardens campaign at reynoldagardens.org/grow.
Reynolda, in Winston-Salem, N.C., is a rare gem among the nation’s cultural institutions and historic landscapes. The Reynolda experience includes a renowned collection of American art in America’s largest bungalow; lush formal gardens; and calming, nature-filled walking trails encompassing more than 130 acres on the 1917 estate of Katharine and R.J. Reynolds. Reynolda, located at 2250 Reynolda Road, is part of Wake Forest University. Download the Reynolda Revealed app on your Apple or Android device.
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