Spring’s Stirring

Magnolias, dogwoods, and other early bloomers are about to bud

Elizabeth Magnolia. Credit: Karen Flick

Plants show signs of spring coming even during March’s unpredictable weather. While everyone is still bundled up in layers of clothing, the bare plants are sensing the most subtle changes. The trees and shrubs give hints to the seasons change especially through their buds on bare woody stems

Woody plants grow buds at different times of the year and for different purposes. Buds may become flowers, leaves, or branches. Many plants grow buds in the late summer and fall as their last bit of work before going dormant for the winter. These are the plants of interest right now. The plants that set flower buds during this time make up the early spring flowers like dogwoods, magnolias, cherry trees, forsythia, and so many more.

Flowering Quince. Credit: Karen Flick

Winter buds are embraced in a protective layer of specially formed leaves, while inside the flower parts are starting to grow. Magnolia buds show this with a fuzzy outer layer and peeks of colorful petals inside before they open. Plants sense the increase in daylight and warmer air even though this can change suddenly. Plant roots sense the steadily warming soil temperatures and signal their buds to grow.

Japanese Cornelian Cherry. Credit: Karen Flick

Longer days and warmer temperatures are slowly but surely on their way, even if a sudden snow happens. Watching buds daily or weekly reveals their growth ever so subtly; watch close enough to capture the moment just before the bud opens. No matter how much attention is given to the buds, the moment of bloom is always a rewarding surprise.

Snowdrops. Credit: Karen Flick

Attention Citizen Scientists!

In 2020 Awbury is focusing on a series of opportunities for everyone to engage in Citizen Science – a modern way to learn while aiding scientists in tracking and documenting what is happening in our own backyards, parks, and beyond.

Check out this page for the full lineup of opportunities to utilize resources like smartphones and neighborhood experts to participate in testing water, meeting trees, counting fireflies, and much more. Visit Awbury on March 21 for Budburst. Join other nature lovers in tracking buds of various key plants in the Awbury Landscape.

About Awbury

Awbury Arboretum (the former Cope family estate) transports visitors from city streets into a country retreat that is the largest remaining oasis of open space in Germantown. Trails weave through 55 acres landscaped in the English romantic style, with open meadows, ponds, woods and rolling hills. The Copes lent their Quaker sense of aesthetics to this world-class arboretum; in 1870, they hired William Saunders, designer of the Capitol grounds in Washington, D.C., to bring their vision to fruition. Today, Awbury’s mission is to preserve and interpret their historic house and landscape, in order to connect the community with nature and history. Awbury is free and open to the public every day (dawn til dusk). More info at www.awbury.org.

About Karen Flick 10 Articles
Karen is Awbury's Landscape Manager. She is a former intern at the arboretum and a Temple University graduate with degrees in psychology and horticulture.

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