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Wednesday, 19 May 2010
“Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough"
Lying in bed early last Saturday, looking out at the beautiful morning, we had the sudden shock of seeing a flurry of snowflakes blowing up around our bedroom window – from nowhere. No need for panic though. We were seeing the falling white blossom from next door’s wild cherry tree, swirling in the wind. And falling blossom is becoming a common sight in Stirling this week. The town is blessed to have had foresightful planners or other Council officials who, in previous decades, arranged for, or insisted on through planning conditions or whatever, the planting of numerous cherry trees in avenues and other public spaces, mostly cultivated varieties of what look like Japanese cherry trees, with masses of pink blossom. There are also many individual wild cherry trees in parks and gardens around the town and, this year, this Spring blossom season, they really are all earning their keep. (Apple and pear blossom is very profuse this year too)
I don't know whether it is just a symptom of us having suffered through such a long, cold winter (the tail-end of which was still lurking around here as recently as last week, hence our weekend concerns above about snow!), and so any mass phenomenon related to Spring is rendered that much more welcome, but this year, the cherry blossom here in Stirling seems particularly spectacular. I suppose it is also possible that the lateness of the end of the Winter cold temperatures has retarded the appearance of the cherry blossom so that it all appeared at once, compressing the flowering of earlier and later flowering cherry trees into one shorter, but spectacular season. Out in town on Saturday, I had forgotten to take a decent camera, but even my phone's camera managed to make a half decent job of recording the blossom phenomenon.
With the breezy conditions on Saturday, blossom was starting to stream off the cherry trees and swirling around like weird pink snowflakes before settling in the beginnings of "blossom drifts" along paths, pavements and roadside gutters.
In writing about cherry blossom for a recent Spring-time blog post (here), I came across some fascinating information on the strong cultural significance of the cherry blossom season in Japan. I'm grateful to Tokyo-based Louise Rouse's "My Blog" for interesting information on this annual cultural phenomenon.
She reports: "The coming of spring in Japan has been celebrated since around the middle of the 9th century BC by the opening of the iconic cherry blossom, a custom originally imported from China, but that has changed entirely since then in meaning and style, but for the simple uniting principle of celebrating flowers opening. Forecasts for the Japanese sakura blossoming are as detailed and frequent as the regular weather forecasts during this season." She goes on to look at published academic information on the link between cherry blossom dates and climate change, using cherry flowering dates from Japan running back over a thousand years (surely the longest near-continuous record of hand-recorded biological data anywhere?). She includes the following academic figure in her post, which I reproduce here for interest:
So, in celebration our own fine cherry blossom season in Stirling, here are some more pictures from the weekend.
I like the irony of this final picture below, which shows cherry blossom piling up in the gutter outside the entrance to the local Public Registry office where we held our wedding ceremony and, outside of which, local bye-laws now prevent the use of paper confetti after wedding ceremonies - Nature finds a better way, as usual! Biodegradable, non-toxic, carbon-neutral fresh and fragrant confetti, the only disadvantage being that it has only a seasonal supply!
PS as a final irony, a consistent error that kept appearing while I was typing this in was the accidental typing of "cheery blossom" instead of "cherry blossom" - very appropriate, you might think! :¬)