Thursday, February 23, 2012

Waiting for Cherry Blossoms

I don’t know how many of you are in the Philadelphia area, but if you are you’ve surely noticed how incredibly warm this winter has been. We’ve had a little snow, and short bursts of cold weather, but the majority of January and February has been like today – sunny with high temperatures in the 50s.

As you can imagine, this has all kinds of implications, but for tea people the big question is what’s going to happen with the cherry blossoms. The mid-Atlantic region has a climate very similar to Kyoto’s, which is great for tea ceremony because our seasonal changes track pretty well with the traditional tea calendar. So at the same time that the cherry trees are blooming in Japan, they’re also blooming here. Of course, cherry blossoms are a much bigger deal in Japan, but we have celebrations here also.

The biggest celebration in the region is actually in Washington, D.C., where they have a lot of cherry trees and a huge annual festival. Philadelphia also has a respectable-size celebration, which I’ve talked about in previous posts. The planners of those events just have to use past bloom times as a guide – in Washington it’s around April 7th, and a week later in Philadelphia. But there can be a huge variation in those dates depending on the weather, and calculating bloom times is quite the science. (If you want an idea of how much of a science, check out this open-access research article on calculating bloom times in Washington DC.)

Depending on other events, our group will try to set aside some time to get together for a little tea under the cherry blossoms, so right now I’m eyeing our local foliage for blooming clues. I keep a cherry blossom log. There are cherry trees blooming all over our area, especially around the Horticultural Center, where the Philadelphia Cherry Blossom Festival is held, so as I see trees in different areas blooming I make a note of the date and any unusual weather that may have affected them. I haven’t been doing this very long, so I can’t even claim to be scientific here, but my guess is that we’re going to see peak bloom in the third or fourth week of March. Let’s see how I do!