When Will Spring Finally Spring?
Has the cold, snowy winter of 2014 put the kibosh on this year’s spring blossoms? Not at all!
It’s true that this March was less flowery than the last few, but it won’t be long before spring really starts to spring. Snowdrops, crocuses, dwarf irises, and winter aconite are already blossoming around the Garden. Daffodils are starting to open, and magnolias won’t be far behind. Some flowering plants, like some of the cherry trees, might even have benefited from the cold winter.
It’s worth noting that the last couple of winters have been unusually warm, so this winter was somewhat of a return to normal. And a cold, snowy winter isn’t necessarily harmful to spring-blooming plants. No one can say exactly what the next month will bring, but here are some of our curators’ best guesses:
“The bulbs will all weather fine from all the snow,” says Jennifer Williams, curator of Daffodil Hill and the Shakespeare and Fragrance gardens. Daffodil Hill has plenty of buds. Elsewhere in the Garden, like on the Overlook, early-blooming specimens have already been spotted. Daffodil Hill has many different cultivars that will bloom at different times, but it will likely be at its peak in mid-April, says Williams.
This time last year Magnolia Plaza was full of blossoms. In 2012, it was in full glory before St. Patrick’s Day. This year’s blooms are still to come, but will likely be as lovely as ever. “A cold winter wouldn’t negatively affect the magnolias, though a freeze after the petals have started to show would. I think the magnolias will be fine, though,” says Wayken Shaw, curator of Magnolia Plaza and the Annual Border. Look for early bloomers in about a week or so and peak bloom sometime in the second half of April.
Tulips and Other Later-Blooming Bulbs
These spring bulbs aren’t likely to suffer much from the cold winter and cool spring. The Annual Border will include a succession of tulips that will begin to bloom beginning in late April and continue through mid-May. “The Fragrance Garden display is also full of late-blooming tulips. The main show should be in late April or early May,” says Williams. The Shakespeare Garden will have a succession of tulips blooming soon after.
The Garden’s flowering cherry trees include more than two dozen cultivars that bloom at different times throughout spring and sometimes in fall and winter. The earliest-blooming cultivars are often in bud at this time but aren’t yet this year.
"Some of these trees may actually benefit from having a nice long dormancy," says Brian Funk, curator of the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden and Cherry Esplanade. The ever-blooming cherry (Prunus sargentii 'Fudan-zakura) and the autumn- blooming cherry (Prunus x subhirtella 'Jugatsu-zakura') trees usually blossom off and on in fall and winter. Since they haven’t done so this year, they will likely have a beautiful, fuller-than-average spring bloom, he says. "One of these two cultivars is likely to be the first cherry to blossom, though a Prunus ‘Okame’ could beat them to it," says Funk.
In general, the cherry blossom season is likely to come later this year than it typically does. “It’s always hard to predict. If we end up with two weeks of really hot weather, we might catch up, but it’d have to be pretty warm. We do sometimes have a stretch of 80-degree weather in April, though, so you never know,” says Funk. At this point he suspects that the Prunus ‘Kanzan’ trees, the lavish, pink-blossoming cultivars of the Cherry Esplanade that mark the cherry blossom finale, will likely be in peak bloom in early May. Most other cultivars will be in bloom in the preceding weeks. Time will tell, though. Stay tuned and visit CherryWatch for updates!