Contributed by: Anthony S. Aiello, Director of Horticulture and Curator, Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania
It is always a very hard thing to predict peak viewing for Cherry Blossoms, and it really depends on the weather during the 2nd and 3rd weeks of March. “Peak” is also a hard thing to define but it usually means the height of flowering of the Yoshino cherries (Prunus × yedoensis).
There are people in Washington D.C. who study this extensively and their predictions are worth watching. One is from the National Park Service (https://www.nps.gov/subjects/cherryblossom/bloom-watch.htm) and they are predicting a peak in DC somewhere between March 14-17th. The other is the Washington Post, and their Capital Weather Gang is calling for a peak close to these dates, from March 15-19th (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/capital-weather-gang/wp/2017/02/28/cherry-blossom-forecast-peak-bloom-will-be-close-to-record-early-this-year/?hpid=hp_local-news_blossoms-cwg-220pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.f639845aa5f7).
The Park Service has documented peak bloom dates since 1921, and if the DC peak happens on March 15th, it will tie for the earliest on record with 1990.
What does this mean for Philadelphia? Generally speaking our Yoshino cherries flower about seven to ten days after those in Washington, D.C. So, if we take mid-point of the two Washington predictions, say March 16-17th, then I would expect our dates of flowering would be somewhere around March 23rd to 27th. This is earlier than Philadelphia’s Sakura Sunday, April 9th, but did I mentioned that it all depends on the weather?
Two caveats – there are more flowering cherries than just Yoshinos, so there is always more to see. AND, who knows what will happen with the weather between now and the end of March?
Contributed by: Sharee Solow, Freelance Landscape Designer, Consultant, Lecturer
The good thing about vegetables is that if you are growing from seed, it isn't too expensive to try new ones each year. To shortcut past all the catalogues you can go to the National Garden Bureau and get the "Cliff Notes." These are some that look really perfect for me.
Beet 'Gourmet Blend': Four colors in one packet means I'll be seeing a bowl of multi-colored, cute, round beets in 60 days.
Carrot 'Rainbow Blend': Colorful vegetables are super popular right now and you can have five colors from one packet which would be really fun for a children's garden.
Corn 'Neon Pink': I have no space, but I know corn looks really good as a tall accent plant in a container and it sure would be fun to have pink corn to try making popcorn from scratch!
Lettuce 'Sweet Valentine': Like most people, I don't eat enough vegetables and I don't like bitter things. This red-leaved lettuce will be beautiful mixed into my flowerbed until it's barely big enough to eat. That's when it will still be sweet enough for me and at 10", I think one will make a whole salad so it can be fresh every time I need one.
Pea 'Patio Pride': This is an all-American winner for vegetables. It's patio-sized at 12" and it you can harvest in only forty days.
Radish 'Fiesta Blend': I know it's a theme, but when I grew up, to grow radishes you had to buy a packet of each color. Now you can get all five of these fancy ones in one packet. These are so easy they are child's play, and you can pick them only one month after they go into the ground.
Squash 'Honeybaby': This is one for small gardens. You get the same sweet squash for soup or baking in the oven, but it's a single-serving size at 7". The plant is apartment-sized to spill a couple feet out of a container, or it can be staked (tied to a railing in my case).
Tomato 'Lady Bug': You have got to grow a tomato in the summer, and I like to have a pile of little ones for my salad. These sweeties are 1" and are certified organic seeds.
Tomato 'Oxheart': It's hard not to think of Italian food when I'm looking at tomatoes. This is the heirloom 'cuore di bue' which translates from Italian as ox heart. This is the one you slice to make a beautiful Caprese salad with basil and fresh mozzarella. Now I need a glass of wine.
Watermelon 'Mini Love': I adore watermelon, but it's hard to commit to a huge one and presliced plastic boxes are not nearly as good. This one fits into the refrigerator, so you can slice it for dinner and not have leftovers. They make an attractive vine to train around a patio where you can watch them grow up.
Contributed by Thom Mrazik, Morris Arboretum Volunteer and Penn State Master Gardener
Stewartia monadelpha (tall stewartia)
You’ll fall in love with the stewartia in the “Bark Park” at the Morris Arboretum. Let me say right away, this isn't a dog park—so no dogs here. And, stewartia isn’t my dog’s fancy name. My cat is named Oliver Dunbar, and while he sometimes acts like a dog, he never barks.
If you want to discover uniquely interesting specimens of living tree bark, then the “Bark Park” is a must stop. The “park” is a small enclave of specialty trees in the English Park section of the Arboretum. Bark is the outermost layers of branches and stems on trees and woody shrubs. And, for some trees, it is the most striking feature.
Most trees’ ornamental features last only a single season—spring flowers, summertime leaves, and fall color changes and fruit. In contrast, bark is out in full view year round. Here, visitors can observe bark’s best—color, texture, and patterns. And, since deciduous trees are without leaves for about six months, the bark is so much easier to see and touch.
Stewartia pseudocamellia (Japanese stewartia)
How does stewartia fit in? Stewartia is a small to medium-sized, deciduous tree, related to flowering camellia and franklinia trees. Stewartia is notable because of its showy single white flowers, colorful fall leaves and especially, for its’ richly colored, smooth bark on mature specimens.
In my opinion, stewartia is an enticing visual treat. You will find outstanding displays in the park: Stewartia pseudocamellia (Japanese stewartia) shows smooth oval patches of orangish-brown, soft gray and brown colors intermingled on the same tree. Stewartia monadelpha (tall stewartia) shows both scaly and smooth areas colored cinnamon brown.
By Jason Lubar, Associate Director of Urban Forestry Morris Arboretum
I am always sad when I have to condemn a significant and beloved tree to death. Such is the case with the large hackberry tree on Stenton Avenue whose canopy is shaped like an “O” or donut because of years of careful pruning around the electric wires that penetrate through its canopy. This tree is just west of Northwestern Avenue, right across from Bloomfield Farm. Today, this tree, known by the many drivers who commute along Stenton Avenue, is being removed.
We noticed that the tree, adjacent to Erdenheim Farm, had significant structural issues, so I recommended that an in-depth inspection be carried out so an informed judgement could be made about the tree. Andrew Hawkes, Morris Arboretum’s arborist, Trish Kemper, our urban forestry technician, and I visited and tree and discovered it to be hollow with fairly large cavity openings on four sides of the trunk. The extent of the decay was too great, and the risk from the whole tree failing and landing on Stenton Avenue was unacceptable, so I condemned the tree to be removed.
Lizzie from Erdenheim Farm bemoans the loss of the “Cheerio Tree” and remembers it from her childhood:
“I grew up in Chestnut Hill and began riding horses when I was seven years old. There was a handful of kids who rode at the same barn about an hour away. Our moms would take turns carpooling. Up to seven kids in a car, to and from, was crazy and memorable, and gave us lots of time for making up games. One of those games was Cheerio Tree. The rules were simple: when the Cheerio tree came into sight you yell "CHEERIO TREE!". The first to say it won. Sometimes we would add up the score over a period of time, but usually it was just a win for the day.
It is interesting that two former Morris Arboretum Urban Forestry interns were involved with removing this hazardous, but beloved tree, one who works at PECO’s Vegetation Management Department, and the other working for Davey Tree, who coordinated the removal.