VIA THE WASHINGTON POST:
The ground has been frozen under layers of snow. Daffodils are just now breaking the surface. The elm trees are two weeks late in starting to flower.
And Washington’s hallowed cherry blossoms?
A little banged up from the blizzards and wind and hampered by a lingering chill in the soil, but apparently not too far off schedule.
The park service’s horticulturist and cherry tree expert Rob DeFeo issued his forecast Thursday for the peak bloom date at the National Cherry Blossom Festival’s annual celebratory kickoff briefing at the Newseum. The trees are expected to bloom between March 31 and April 11, with the peak period expected to occur April 3-8.
The average peak bloom date is April 4, the park service said, but unusually warm or cool weather has resulted in peak bloom dates as early as March 15 — in 1990 — and as late as April 18 — in 1958.
This year’s festival — which marks the 1912 gift to Washington of 3,000 cherry trees by the city of Tokyo — is set for March 27 through April 11. The annual parade and Japanese street festival are scheduled for April 10.
The festival brings in about a million visitors a year, and about $184 million for Washington area business.
While the region remains a battlefield of fallen evergreens, broken magnolias and maimed shrubs from the February snows, the cherry trees escaped largely unscathed, DeFeo said.
Of the 3,700 cherry trees only two or three succumbed to the weather, he said, and damage to others was minimal.
“We’ve had damage from storms since the day we started taking care of the cherries,” he said. “Normally when a limb breaks in a storm, we generally get it by 9 o’clock and nobody ever sees it.” During the snowstorms, he said, crews had problems getting to the damaged trees to work on them.
Plus, “a lot of the branches that fell, fell because they were weak, or weakly attached,” he said. “The tree was already hollow.”
“In two weeks you won’t even know we had a storm,” he said.
DeFeo said the city’s cherry trees — mostly around the Tidal Basin and in East Potomac Park — fared better than other trees, in part, because the park service prunes them to maintain structural strength. “You improve structure; you minimize this kind of damage,” he said.
Whenever it peaks, this year’s bloom will be visually affected by two building projects: the new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, where a tall construction fence has been erected amid the trees on the northwest rim of the Tidal Basin and the Jefferson Memorial, where equipment to repair the sinking seawall on the south side of the basin is likely to mar the view for photographers.