Cherry blossoms’ delayed debut doesn’t dim enthusiasm

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The sun was warm and the sky a bright blue, but three weeks into spring and the cherry blossoms — the District’s unofficial herald for the end of winter — had yet to fully show their true colors.

While bloom-watchers reported seeing blossoms on trees around the White House, trees at the Tidal Basin on Sunday were still short of their peak transformation into blush-colored sentries.

“It’s very cool, but I wish I could stay longer,” said John Dagen, 29, of Norfolk, Va. “It seems like it will be even better tomorrow.”

Thanks to a late-season rally by Old Man Winter, forecasts for the peak bloom time for the blossoms, when more than 70 percent of the buds have opened, was pushed back a full week to April 3 to 6. While fluctuating temperatures aren’t a problem for the buds, National Park Service horticulturists have warned that an extended period of extreme temperatures can have an affect on when the buds will open.

Judging by the number of slow-moving blooms Sunday, it appears as though spring in the District might come a few days later than predicted — news that’s not all bad for some.

“Two years ago, we came out and there was the hurricane, like one tree bloomed and there was 1,000 people all around it,” said David Frankenberger, a Baltimore resident who came to see the blossoms with his mother. “Last year, we just missed the [blooming] schedule. Third time is a charm.”

Pausing on their walk around the southern side of the Tidal Basin, mother and son said some of the trees around the rest of the city were blossoming as temperatures climbed into the upper 60s Sunday.

“It’s neat to see everybody out here,” Mr. Frankenberger said, “but it seems like from today on will be when the trees will be in full bloom.”

The 3,000 trees were a gift from Japan in 1912. Close to 1,700 trees ring the Tidal Basin, and some date back to the original planting.

The cherry trees normally bloom between late March and mid-April, around the same time the District celebrates the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

Though some events like the kite festival passed without the background of pink and white, the festival parade through downtown is scheduled for Saturday, when the blooms should be open. Officials have predicted temperatures this week in the low 80s.

As she struggled to steady a branch for a photograph, Oakton resident Carol Cross, 59, said she has been making the trek to see the blossoms with her family since she moved here in 1996.

“We have a photo of our daughter in her stroller with cherry blossoms raining down,” she said. “This is our annual cherry blossom stroll. This is spring.”

Along the Tidal Basin, crowds of people stopped to pose for photographs overlooking the water or up close with the budding branches. Paddle boats fought against occasional white caps brought on by wind, while picnickers held on to blankets and plates during steady gusts.

Sandra Martin, 60, of Rockville, said she has lived in the area for the past two years but only started going to the see the cherry blossoms after her friends, longtime blossom watchers, convinced her to go.

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