Excuse me, when will the cherries bloom?

First cherry blossom 2014!I know that it’s only February, but we are already taking calls in the office asking when the cherry blossoms will be in bloom this year. So, I give you a cherry blossom blooming blog in the middle of winter. If you’ve called, or you decide to call, we will be happy to give you a vague approximation: “It really depends on the weather, but usually in our area you can expect cherry blossoms around mid-April, but it really depends…” It’s honestly really hard to get an accurate peak bloom time until you’re about a week out. Considering that it’s only February, there are still many weeks to go until we start to see the first flush of cherry blossoms (unless we have a drastic and lasting increase in temperature). In 2014, we thought there would be no blooms until after the Cherry Blossom Festival was over. The large Sakura Sunday event on April 13 that culminated the festival seemed to start out a bit dreary. Wouldn’t you know, that the sun came out midday and the temperature increased just enough to have the blooms around Shofuso open for the crowd, framing the house beautifully with the help of some magnolias? It was pretty remarkable. Will something magical like that happen again? Who knows? It really depends on the weather.

Punxsutawney Phil says that spring is not coming early this year and there will still be six more weeks of winter; which when I count that out, it puts the arrival of spring on March 16. Spring equinox is actually on March 20 this year, so now I really don’t know who to trust. In all seriousness though, you can typically expect the blooms to begin opening anywhere from beginning to mid-April, allowing for a few days of error. Bloom time is regulated by different contributing factors in different plant species. Some plants will flower mostly based on the day length (actually it’s the length of the night that’s the factor, but I won’t get into that) signalling to the plant what season it is, while others like cherries, flower due to an increase in temperature (or really a decrease in cool temperatures… this is all so complicated, right?), and some plants use an equation of both factors. So, if spring temperatures are late to arrive, so will the blooms. Early? The blooms follow suit.

IMG_20140416_104205I’m sure all of this is very frustrating if you are planning a trip with your family, or toting your camera to capture peak bloom. The cherries can be a fleeting spectacle, which is why I think people get ravenous for information about when they can pin them down. They can very possibly be here one day, and gone – or at least dreadful – the next. The upsides to visiting the cherries that are around the Japanese House are plentiful: If you arrive too early for the Yoshino and Higan varieties, you will most likely be able to see one or more varieties of early blooming magnolias around the house. Come too late? Well, the kwanzan cherries will most likely be showing off their blooms. If you’re a true cherry chaser, start south and work your way north to catch the cherries as they open in each USDA hardiness zone.

The higher the zone, the earlier the blooms. The easiest way to cheat the system is to watch the DC bloom schedule unfold. Philadelphia’s peak is usually about a week behind DC. But again, that all depends…

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