Spring at last!

by Terry Huang, Living Collections Fellow
May 2, 2018

Spring at last!

After a long, persistent winter, the recent stretch of warmer weather has coaxed tight buds into bloom. Though the earliest flowers have faded now, the floral procession of spring has just begun. Be sure to visit the Arboretum to celebrate the return of spring and revel in one of nature’s most magical transformations!

The cherry collection is a must-see with many trees in full bloom. Look out for Sargent cherry (Prunus sargentii), Yoshino cherry (Prunus x yedoensis), and Oriental cherry (Prunus serrulata) covered with pillowy clouds of blossoms buzzing with honeybees and showering the landscape with their delicate petals. The floral display of the cherry collection may extend for a couple weeks (weather dependent), but they are at their peak now so catch them while you can.

The early-blooming magnolias at the Arboretum are also at their peak. Star magnolia (Magnolia stellata), Kobus magnolia (Magnolia kobus), willowleaf magnolia (Magnolia salicifolia), and their hybrids are a couple of weeks into their flowering and will continue for another week or so. Don’t fret if you can’t make it in time to see them, because many other magnolias are just beginning to flower. One particular beauty is Magnolia ‘Elizabeth’. This mature tree lives across the road from the Hunnewell Building and its large primrose-yellow flowers (a rare color for magnolias) are hard not to miss. Come admire the dramatic beauty and lemony fragrance of these lovely flowers.

Witch-hazels’ (Hamamelis spp.) flowering season has come and gone, but one of its relatives, winterhazel (Corylopsis spp.), is in full bloom now. Its graceful habit and pleated leaves are reminiscent of its cousins, but its flowers are quite different. Winterhazels have pale chartreuse flowers with rounded petals produced in chains that dangle from their thin branches. Sometimes their flowers are fragrant, but this varies from plant to plant. However, if you stop by Corylopsis glabrescens ‘Longwood Chimes’ located in the Leventritt Shrub and Vine Garden, you are sure to catch its delightful fragrance, which reminds me of jasmine tea pearls. Winterhazel flowers don’t last long, so visit within the next two weeks to catch them.

Speaking of fragrance, lilac season (highly-anticipated and celebrated at the Arnold Arboretum for more than a century) is just beginning. The flowers of the earliest bloomers, such as early lilac (Syringa oblata), have unfurled, with more and more shrubs to follow their lead in the next few weeks. Join us on Lilac Sunday (Sunday, May 13 from 10am to 3pm) and bring a picnic for our annual celebration of this renowned collection, and take a stroll along Bussey Hill Road any time in the second half of May to enjoy the fragrant torrent of purple, white, and pink lilac flowers.

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