In Full Bloom: Springtime in Washington

By Elizabeth Botten
April 9, 2010
Memorial album created by Mollie Garfield
Page 15 of Mollie Garfield Album, 1882-1883. Mollie Garfield (Mary Garfield Stanley-Brown) papers regarding President James Garfield, 1874-1883. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

While spring officially arrives on March 21, for the thousands of tourists and native Washingtonians who flock annually to the Tidal Basin, it is the National Cherry Blossom Festival (currently through April 11) which truly ushers in the season in the Nation’s capital.

This small watercolor by the artist William Henry Holmes (1846–1933) forms part of a memorial scrapbook presented to Mollie Garfield after the assassination of her father, President James Garfield.  And, though it marks a sad occasion, Holmes's lifelike rendering exemplifies re-birth and the bloom of spring.

More on Mollie Garfield , William Henry Holmes, and cherry blossoms:

Elizabeth Botten works in the Reference Services Department at the Archives of American Art.


I like very much the springtime. It's so romantic.....

Thanks for sharing this. Our family love Cherry blossoms - the kids planted a couple of trees in our front yard last spring. The story of the scrapbook being gifted to the grieving Mollie Garfield is one of the most touching I've ever come across - a human being reaching out to another through art and the portrayal of rebirth. Most fascinating.

Thank you for sharing. The small watercolor in the book is truly a perfect representation of the beauty and new life of spring.

Wonderful photos thanks for sharing them and who ever edited the slideshow.

This year I'm so excited that I will be able to see the cherry blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens!

I was married to a Japanese woman, and had the great good fortune of being in Tokyo (and Osaka, Kyoto and Nara) during the blooming of the Sakura (cherry blossoms). It's an extremely beautiful thing, just as it is in Washington, and a semi-religious period for the Japanese.
It's not uncommon to see hundreds of thousands of them drifting on the surfaces of lakes and ponds, set afloat by everyday Japanese citizens who have taken off work just for this purpose. And photos, paintings, drawings, etc of their lovely petals are as ubiquitous as the origami cranes, year round.