Philly’s cherry blossoms were just entering the peak of flowering as a cold snap ensued, which probably froze many of the fragile flowers that had already bloomed and threatened the buds. Gardeners say that with global warming flowering time comes earlier.
“I think earlier this year there is a greater chance of these late frosts,” said Anthony Ayela, deputy director of conservation, plant breeding and collections at Longwood Gardens. “In a way, it’s a funny year.”
The Japan-Greater Philadelphia Society (JASGP), which hosts the annual Shofuso Cherry Blossom Festival in Philadelphia, has predicted the city will be at its “peak of flowering” around April 1, and a large collection of cherry blossoms along the Shuilkill River will reach West Fair Park. weekend, just for the festival. But the warm weather in recent weeks has accelerated the flowering process, said Shofuso chief gardener Sandy Poles, pushing back the peak of flowering earlier than usual.
Temperatures below zero, as in Philly on Monday and Tuesday, can freeze the tissues of flowers that have already bloomed, causing them to turn brown and dull when the temperature rises again. The full effect of Philly’s freezing on buds that were ready to bloom will not be clear in a few days. Some may die and not thrive – or, they may be fine.
“We’re just going to have to wait and see,” Ayela said. “This year we were on our way to a really good show. And then, you know, it’s so unpredictable. I mean, these temperatures are extreme. ”
Poles said the trees near the garden center in Fairmont Park and in Shofuso – including the iconic Japanese weeping cherry – look fine.
“We’re crossing our fingers to make cherries in West Fairmount Park bloom this weekend,” he said Tuesday. “But I definitely won’t know for about two days. They could be fried. “
As the climate warms, there is a tendency to early flowering – but great variability
In the warm spring of last year, blossoming cherries in Kyoto, Japan, peaked first in the last 1,200 years, which is in line with the trend of earlier flowering times, which, according to experts, was an indicator of climate change. Warm winters can also cause cherry trees to bloom later, as they need a month of cold weather to properly “wake up” when it gets warmer.
The timing of the peak of flowering always varies depending on the weather conditions of the year, said Polyakov. But local experts agree that in the Branch region there is a trend towards early spring flowering.
“When I came to this area in 1986, I would say that the earliest cherries and the earliest magnolias were [blooming in late March or early April]”Said Andrew Bunting, vice president of public gardening and landscaping at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. “Then with global climate change and warming winters, he is crawling back. At first it was a day or two, but now … it has accelerated by two or three weeks, which is a lot, considering that only 30 years have passed. “
Winter is the season with the fastest warming in Pennsylvania and much of the United States. The average winter temperature in Philly has risen by almost 5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1970.
Bunting also noticed more southern varieties of spring-flowering plants such as camellias and magnolias that bloom in Philly.
“Thirty years ago … there was a couple who limped and looked normal,” he said. “But now I would say that every southern magnolia is 100% viable.”
Poles said that growing a variety of flowering trees and plants will be key to maintaining the lush spring blooms in the Branch as the climate warms. “It helps you insure against your bets.”
Don’t despair! Still thriving on the way
Even if this week’s cold Phsnap will prevent Philly’s “peak flowering”, it most likely won’t hurt the cherry trees that will bloom later this spring.
The idea of ”flowering peak” is still misleading, Palyakou thinks. It focuses on the Yosin cherry variety that blooms along the tidal basin in Washington, DC. But Philly grows several different varieties, including the pink and purple Okame, which blooms earlier, and the pink kwanzan, which blooms later.
Frosts probably marked the end of Okame flowering, Poles said, but Philadelphians can still expect full flowering of Kwanzan and other late-flowering varieties, as well as small amounts of Yosin and more variable Higan cherries.
In the city and the region there are many places where you can see the spectacular blooms. Blooming cherries are popular street and park trees, Ayela said, so start by looking around your area.
If you want to make a trip, here are some of the places that gardeners recommend.
- Kelly Drive on the east bank of the Shuilkil River near the Art Museum
- MLK Drive on the west bank of Schuylkill
- Shofuso Japanese House and Garden in West Fairmount Park
- Maurice Arboretum in Chestnut Hill
- Naval plant
- Scott Arboretum at Swartmore College
- Tyler’s Arboretum in the Media
- Chanticleer Garden in Wayne
- Longwood Gardens in Kenneth Square