National Trust encourages people to celebrate spring with UK’s first ever #BlossomWatch day

  • Public urged to get outdoors to enjoy blossom to lift spirits and reconnect with nature
  • Top Trust spots for blossom in Northern Ireland include Florence Court, Ardress House, Rowallane Garden and Mount Stewart
  • Sub-zero temperatures, frost and snow have delayed some blossom and damaged others including magnolia and rhododendron
  • Despite an uncertain start, blossom is expected to reach its peak in the coming days and weeks
  • Warmer times should bring on cherry, apple, pear blossom and hawthorn.

The National Trust is urging people to use the longer warmer days of spring and come together on social media to share their pictures as part of the charity’s first ever nationwide #BlossomWatch Day.

As restrictions ease and loved ones can finally start to meet outside, the conservation charity is urging people to use the easing of restrictions to share in one of nature’s most magnificent natural spectacles.

The charity is asking people simply to meet loved ones or sit quietly alone under or near a blossoming tree, take notice and perhaps share images on social media.

Top spots for fruit blossom in Northern Ireland include the apple orchards at Ardress House, Florence Court and Downhill Demesne while gorgeous colourful blooms from flowering rhododendrons and magnolia can be seen at Mount Stewart and Rowallane Garden.

The recent topsy turvy weather – with plunging temperatures of up to minus five at night and some areas experiencing snowfall – has given this year’s blossom an uncertain start but it is expected to reach its peak in the coming days and weeks.

At Mount Stewart on the shores of Strangford Lough the frosts have hit the rhododendrons and camellias hard as Oliver Johnson, Assistant Head Gardener explains: “Frost on the flowers of rhododendrons and camellias causes the fragile cells inside to freeze, burst their cell walls, and die. Rhododendrons and camellias are famous for being impacted by late frosts, with many Victorian collectors lamenting the effects to each other in letters. Leaves tend to be more protected than flowers, particularly on evergreens, usually by some sort of cuticle or other waterproof or waxy coating, but frosts can cause scorch on the newly emerging shoots of deciduous plants too.”

While at Ardress House the apple blossom has faced a tough start to the season as tenant farmer Greg MacNeice explains: “At the start of April we had cold North Easterly winds that brought low temperatures during the day and even hail, sleet and snow.  All our native bumble bees, who are the first to emerge made a dash back to their nests and the blossom that had been about to show stopped dead in its tracks.

“Many blooms have been killed off before they have had their time to shine but thankfully many have also survived. We sprayed our trees with an ‘anti-frost’ mix of seaweed and foliar nutrients, including zinc, nature’s answer to anti-freeze in advance of the frost to relieve any stress on the tree with its delicate leaves and blossoms nestled within.

“The numbers of blossoms may not be that high due to the frost that hit over consecutive nights, but I have no doubt the apple trees will overcome this adversity as they did last year. Less apples means that they have the ability to grow a little bigger and this can go some way to make up the loss in numbers.”

With the current spell of warmer sunnier weather putting spring back on track, people are being asked to share pictures of blossom on social media on April 24 using the #BlossomWatch.

And by tagging their location, an interactive digital map (www.nationaltrust.org.uk/blossom-watch) will chart the progress of blossom across the country.

Annie Reilly, Blossom Programme Manager at the National Trust says: “Our Blossom campaign has got off to a flying start with more than five and a half million views on social media. As the next step in emulating Japan’s Hanami – we want to encourage more people to fully immerse themselves in the joy of blossom as it reaches its peak.

“There has been a lot of research into the connection between enjoying moments in nature and feelings of wellbeing[1], and with social distancing measures having eased slightly, meeting a handful of family or friends under a blossom tree could be the ideal way to lift spirits and re-connect with people. We want to embed this tradition for the future, and if ever there was a year to appreciate the joy and comfort of nature, surely 2021 is it.

“What we’re proposing is a simple activity for all ages to enjoy – grandparents and grandchildren can finally meet up outdoors and make some new memories together to celebrate not only this time in nature’s calendar, but also the easing of lockdown restrictions.”

Blossom season and the lifecycle it signifies is looked-for in many countries as a harbinger of nature’s progress and this year blossom season in Japan came early[2].

This year’s weather in the UK has affected the blossom, particularly for magnolias which have been affected by this spring’s low overnight temperatures.

Simon Toomer, plant specialist at the National Trust said: “Magnolias were particularly affected, with their delicate petals experiencing frost damage[3], and therefore falling off trees early, due to the low overnight temperatures – highlighting the need to enjoy the fleeting beauty of the blossom season.

“However, temperatures will undoubtedly rise over the next week or two and this will bring on the cherry blossom followed closely by apples, pears and other fruit in gardens and orchards. We will also see insect pollinators increasing in number to ensure those flowers develop into fruit for a bountiful harvest”

The conservation charity’s #BlossomWatch campaign which officially launched on 18 March has already seen double the engagement it had in its pilot year with over 32,000 posts across social media channels including twitter, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok.

And, the campaign has already had over 5.5 million views (reach and impressions) from the beginning of March, a million more than this time last year[4].

To get involved and to share images of any blossom in bloom this weekend, simply share images using #BlossomWatch.

For further information, inspiration and to donate towards the charity’s tree planting ambitions visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/blossom-watch

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