The National Trust has launched its annual blossom campaign, which aims to bring the beauty of blossom to more people and to celebrate the start of spring.
However, due to repeated cold snaps particular in recent weeks and the driest February in thirty years, Britons may need to wait a little longer than usual to be able to enjoy nature’s most beautiful displays, as cold temperatures, wind and snow lead to difficult conditions for flowering trees and hedgerows across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Fortunately, the British public should not have to wait long for nature to give its great show of blossom, as a milder and wetter April should counteract the past dryness and the snow is unlikely to have any effects on the beauty of blossom once the trees are in full flower.
Andy Jasper, Head of Gardens and Parklands at the National Trust, said: “A number of factors can influence the timing of the emergence of blossom, temperature being the principal one. While we had a mild winter overall, the recent cold snaps have affected how quickly nature progresses, and we can see the effects of this across many of our gardens with blooms delayed.
“Luckily, snow doesn’t generally affect the blossom in the long run – it’s late frost that can really impact the display of blossom, fruiting and harvests – and the cold snap has happened before the buds have tried to bloom in most cases, so we are still in line for a truly incredible show where the delayed blossom will burst forth in waves across the country like an amazing Mexican floral wave – marking the reassuring moment that spring has arrived.”
Dea Fischer, Senior Gardener at Oxburgh Estate in Norfolk, said: “In Norfolk, we have had some freezes this winter, a few times down to -10 to -15°C. In recent weeks we’ve had night-time temperatures down to -4°C. Although not unusual for this time of year, it can have an impact. Looking back at my images of last spring, our orchard blossom seems quite a way behind this year. Buds, though forming well on the pear trees, are still tightly furled. However, if the current cold spell is followed by warm temperatures and some sun, I expect to see them catch up fairly quickly. It is better that the buds remain tightly furled until a bit later, providing them with a bit of protection until the worst of the cold is past.
“Very cold winters can also slow down the emergence of pollinators, causing some to perish or slow down the emergence of food sources for them in the delay of blooming. However, judging by the hundreds of bees I saw active on our snowdrops and aconites every sunny February day, I’d say we are well on target for good pollinator presence once the blooms do open.”
As part of the blossom campaign, the National Trust will encourage the UK public to explore and enjoy blossom and share spring impressions on social media with the hashtag #BlossomWatch. #Blossomwatch is part of a long-term campaign to return blossoming trees to our landscapes and create a UK equivalent of Japan’s ‘hanami’, the popular traditional custom where people of all generations get involved in enjoying the transient beauty of cherry blossom from March until May.
The conservation charity will also continue its work to bring blossom back to landscapes across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, by planting more blossoming trees. These tree plantings will help contribute to the charity’s commitment to plant and establish 20 million trees by 2030 to help tackle both the climate and nature crises.
For more information about this year’s blossom campaign and the National Trust’s work around lost blossom, visit: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/blossom
Top Spots for Blossom in Norfolk
Magnolias can now be found in almost all continents of the world because of their beauty. At Blickling Estate, you can enjoy the soft pinks and whites of the magnificent magnolia trees dotted around the West Garden from March. Blackthorn and Hawthorn also create heavenly hedgerows, followed by the fruit blossom in the orchard and walled garden, where the team have planted over 50 varieties of plum, apple and pear trees in recent years. Now that it’s getting established, these trees provide a spectacular display that kicks off with plum blossom in early spring, with more fruit trees being added this year.
The walled garden at Felbrigg Hall is always a talking point with visitors and spring is a great time to visit. Home to ornamental cherry trees, which will be in bloom throughout spring, along with the trained fruit trees along the walls, the blossom starts with the apricots and peaches in March, followed by the plums and pears in April and the apples flowering in May. Most of the fruit trees in the garden are historic varieties, developed for storage over winter, so fresh fruit would be available for the household well into spring. There are also pockets of blossom throughout the woodlands that was started by the last Squire and continued by the National Trust’s countryside team.
Norfolk Coast & Broads
Although the Norfolk coast is not the most obvious place for blossom, between Morston and Stiffkey you’ll find blackthorn blossoming in hedgerows from March onwards. Swathes of hawthorn, known as the ‘May tree’ then comes into its own in you’ve guessed it, May, marking the point at which spring turns into summer. The month in which hedgerow blossom emerges, is a good way for telling hawthorn and blackthorn apart. At Horsey Windpump in the Norfolk Broads, we recently planted a new mixed blossom hedgerow thanks to support from the People’s Postcode Lottery. Measuring around 200ft in length, the hedgerow is a mix of common buckthorn, guelder, hawthorn and field maple.
Within the orchard at Oxburgh Estate you’ll find fruit trees from around East Anglia, including heritage varieties from Norfolk. With the exception of a couple of older medlar and quince trees, the apple and pear trees are a recent addition, as we work to re-establish the orchard that once grew here. The woodland walks also put on quite the show, in the form of hawthorn and blackthorn.
Another colourful spectacle not to be missed this spring, are the rhododendrons and azaleas at Sheringham Park. Rhododendrons are thought to have been present at Sheringham Park since the mid-19th century. The last remaining handkerchief tree in the park that was grown from the original seed brought back by plant collector Ernest Wilson from China, flowers in late April to early May and a nearby snowdrop tree keeps it company. The wild garden also contains 15 varieties of magnolia and the Pieris that grows here are believed to be some of the largest in the country.