Picnic ideas - Host a picnic under a cherry blossom tree April 20 2014

Known in Japan as Hanami, blossom viewing picnics are a centuries’ old Japanese tradition where friends and families get together between March and May to enjoy outdoor parties under the cherry blossom trees. As the blossom only lasts for a few weeks it reminds us of the fleetingness of Spring, and in fact, life. 

The idea is gradually starting to catch on and people all over the world are starting to embrace the tradition and celebrate the onset of warmer weather in a beautiful setting. The blossoms only last about a month here so once you’ve navigated the weather, there’s a fairly narrow window of time in which to hold your party.

We held one here a week ago and though much of the blossom may already have fallen, there might still be a chance to throw a blossom viewing party and celebrate the season.

Here is the What You Sow guide to hosting a cherry blossom picnic. Though Japanese parties typically involve bento and sake. We took a more English approach.

A few days before

Find a cherry tree, or preferably a row of cherry trees. This can be more problematic than it sounds, especially when you live in a city and most of the best cherry trees are in people’s front gardens or on main roads. I am not yet ready to ask someone if I can have a picnic on their driveway and I think it would be hard to relax if cars were constantly whizzing by.

Spend some time scoping out any local parks that you know, then have a look on a street A-Z for any hidden parks or green spaces. There might be a little crescent or hidden garden that you haven’t come across yet. Now’s the time to find out what sort of trees are there and whether it’s a good spot for a picnic.

The day before

Invite your friends. The weather in the UK is so unpredictable that you have to plan your party fairly last minute. If you plan it in advance it will rain. Or even worse, as happened to us last year, 2 days of blustery weather blew ALL the blossom off the trees just before we had planned to hold our picnic. Once you are sure that the weather is on your side, invite people by text or phone call and make it a low commitment event, “Meet me for breakfast under the cherry tree at 11 tomorrow morning. Bring baked eggs.” Don’t bother creating a facebook event, it will get lost.

Make it accessible to everyone. Some people will love to bake and some won’t and some people won’t have time to prepare anything. So tell people what to bring based on what you think they would like to / be able to bring.  

Invite your cutest friends. We invited Ryan to ours. She’s American and does things like arrange pumpkin carving parties where she puts plastic teeth in our cocktails. Sometimes she writes us notes from her goldfish. She’s just the kind of person you need at your Blossom Viewing Picnic.

Friends with young families may love to stop by for a bit. Alec brought baby Connie to ours and she had a great time, he got to relax a bit, and we got a lot of Connie cuddles out of it.

The morning of your picnic

Pack the special stuff - your favourite tartan blanket, the good cutlery and crockery, the vintage tablecloths from the charity shop, the picnic basket you received as a wedding present. If you don’t have a picnic basket, pack everything into your trug.

Pack butter, salt, pepper, proper knives, forks and spoons, jam, paper straws, glasses, plates, napkins, tea towels.

Make sure there is something home-made - pancakes, cake, that jam you made and have been saving for a special occasion. It doesn’t get much more special than a picnic under the shade of thousands of tiny cherry blossom. If you don’t have a repertoire of special stuff, then make the ordinary things extraordinary. We drew pictures of cherry blossom on our hard boiled eggs with a sharpie. Unusual. Beautiful. Job done. People gasped.

Take tea or coffee in a flask and get someone to bring some juice (we look out in our local shop for that lovely apricot nectar that you always get in France).

Suggestions of foods to bring:

Baked eggs

Croque monsieur

Muffins

Hard boiled eggs

Cold sausages

Fruit

Potato Tortilla or vegetable frittata

Flapjacks

Breakfast scones

Croissants, French sticks or homemade bread plus ham, cheese, jam and Nutella to go with them.

Just before you leave the house

Pack sunscreen (just in case)

At your blossom viewing party

Decorate. It’s wrong to pull bits of cherry blossom off the tree, but if you go to a local park, I guarantee there will be some sprigs lying on the ground where children have kicked footballs into the tree. Use these to decorate your picnic and garnish your dishes. 

Plan some relaxed entertainment, I’m talking about books, the newspapers, a pack of cards and your crochet supplies. You might get lucky and have a whole day of sunshine sat in the park with your friends.

Have an excellent time and tag me on Instagram (@whatyousow) if you throw your own blossom viewing party, I’d love to hear how you got on

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