Sakura Watch 2017 Begins!

Sakura Watch 2017 begins this month! After last year’s bust of no flowers, many are hopeful for a much more fulfilling bloom this year. How will 2017 compare to 2016? Let’s begin by examining a few early factors.

The Weather

This year’s winter has been much more forgiving then last. The Weather Network’s Spring Forecast (watch here) notes near normal or above normal temperatures for April and May. This bodes well for the cherry blossom buds as more predictable and stable temperatures should help the trees and buds to properly grow.

March may still be a bit up and down. Extreme cycles with warmer above zero week days followed by freezing sub-zero weekends. The one consolation is the buds are currently protected from the extreme changes because it is early in the development process.

Bud to Bloom Development

There was much disappointment in 2016. A harsh, long winter with severe cold damaged the sakura / cherry blossom trees throughout High Park. Confused buds stayed closed much longer then their normal schedules. The lack of expected warmer weather meant most buds simply skipped producing any flowers at all and went straight to leaves instead.

First visit to High Park in 2017

2017 has so far (fingers crossed!) been a much temperate and forgiving year. A first visit to the park this weekend saw good early signs that some buds are on track. The -13 C winds only allowed me to take a few photos, but its a good starting point. The gallery above show what look like good, healthy blossom buds progress so far. More visits in the coming weeks should help determine when to expect to see a bloom this year.

When will they Sakura Cherry Blossoms bloom in 2017?

With only an initial visit so far, its still too early to estimate. I know MANY of you have already been asking! As it stands today, the initial estimate is to see a normal late April to early May bloom time. Remember this is ONLY A GUESS and a few more visits should help be more accurate so check back on this site or any of our social media sites like facebook, twitter, and instagram to stay up to date on the Sakura Watch.

National Post story of Sakura Steve

Video: National Post interviews Sakura Steve

Video: National Post interviews Sakura Steve about the lack of cherry blossoms in High Park this year and have posted an article with a 5 min video giving many the first chance to meet the man behind the Sakura in High Park website.

The idea of creating the video was first brought to me by National Post writer/columnist Joe O’Connor and after piquing my interest we picked May 13th as the day to go out and film with Graham Runciman (videographer). It was a perfect sunny spring afternoon in the park and both Joe and Graham did an excellent job in helping me feel comfortable in telling my story and share some of my thoughts into the lack of any cherry blossom this year. There is even a segment learning more about the Japanese tradition behind the sakura cherry blossoms from a representative of the Consulate General of Japan in Toronto.

[ Click here to read the article and watch the video ]

Overall I think they put together an excellent video and had a lot of fun that afternoon – thank you Joe and Graham!

Sakura Watch, May 20, 2016 – No Cherry Blossoms to see this holiday weekend

Sakura Watch, May 20, 2016 - No Cherry Blossoms to see this holiday weekend

Akebono / Fugenzo blossoms starting to bloom in High Park on May 13, 2016

 

Sakura Watch, May 20, 2016 – No Cherry Blossoms to see this holiday weekend is what you will need to keep in mind when heading to High Park this May long weekend.

This is a reminder to those who haven’t yet heard the bad news or noticed that there were hardly any sakura cherry blossoms at all this year – and in fact this past week most of the trees are now fully leaves with the random blossom in trees full of leaves.

There are other blossoms like the Akebono/Fugenzo varieties down near Grenadier Pond as well as lots of other flowers in the park that you can enjoy and the beautiful weather is still a good reason to get outside.

Have a great long weekend!
Sakura Steve

Sakura Watch, May 13, 2016 – Good, bad and lucky blossom news

Sakura Watch, May 13, 2016 – Good, bad and lucky blossom news to report today as during a walk through the park on Friday May 13th proved to be truly lucky in helping discover a piece of the puzzle to the mystery – why the blossoms are a no-show in High Park but many buds remain intact! In the weeks ahead you will be able to see this walk – more on that will be posted in a later update.

Good News

Starting off with the good news, it does seem we will soon be seeing the Akebono / Fugenzo cherry blossoms bloom this week. A few are already open and there are a good number of florets fully extended with clearly visible flower petals just waiting to open up. These blossoms are a different variety that tend to bloom in later May and into early June – I like to refer to them as the ‘consolation prize’ or even ‘after party’ of the sakura cherry blossoms where you still get to enjoy beautiful flowers after the main event is over. The photos into today’s gallery help illustrate all the wonderful big blossoms to come!

Bad News

Unfortunately it seems the park, and all its organic inhabitants, just can’t catch a break from Mother Nature! After a few days of nice sunny weather that definitely helped the blossoms along, including my own crab apple blossoms that have magically opened and filled the tree Friday afternoon, is now going to turn back to even more cold, rainy weather this coming weekend! There is even a chance of flurries for Sunday – in May!

The up and down weather continues to play a big part in creating havoc in the development cycle of the sakura trees. Current observations continue to see trees with approximately 60-70% leaves and 30-40% viable buds that don’t seem to be doing anything … well that is until now because a revelation came to light on Friday afternoon – praise the Christmas baby Jesus or other relevant religious deity you believe in!

Lucky News for Friday the 13th

Many believe that Friday the 13th is an unlucky day. I’ve always had the opposite view and believed 13 to be one of my favourite and lucky numbers. So imagine my delighted surprise that near the end of our filming along Spring Road (near the High Park Zoo and Adventure Playground) I discovered something completely exciting and unexpected – sakura cherry blossoms are starting to bloom! The timing is most interesting as mid-May is getting to be the latest I’ve seen sakura cherry blossoms bloom, but they are in fact blooming in a way I have not seen before in that they appear to be jumping or skipping stages and going from bud straight to blossom in a matter of days instead of weeks.

Usually, when predicting blooms I look for the key signs of stages of development that usually follow a set time frame of how long they will take to develop with of course weather and temperature playing its part in how faster or slower they can progress. Key stages 3 & 4 are usually a gradual change that goes over a 2-3 week period and also when the buds are most vulnerable to cold and more dependent on warmer, sunnier days to help move them along to stage 5 and eventually blossoms.

However, its looking like these 2016 buds have grown impatient! Tired of of the constant up and down weather cycles, not knowing whether to come out or stay in, and finally saying ‘Enough! We’re going for it!‘, there are clear signs of blossoms that appear to be almost ‘bursting’ out of the bud into an elongated floret ready to open within a day or so, pending the weather remains warm and sunny – see this example photo here:

Sakura Watch, May 13, 2016 - Good, bad and lucky blossom news

Few sakura cherry blossoms are now beginning to burst out of their bud casings by Spring Road in High Park on May 13, 2016

This could mean we will continue to see sakura cherry blossom clusters or small groupings opening up in the next week or two throughout the park right along side the Akebono / Fugenzo cousins. The flowers will still be sparse and will NOT be as spectacular as a peak bloom event, however they do give us a rare opportunity to at least experience some form of blossoms, even if only a fleeting amount, into the final weeks of spring 2016.

Of course the latest news now adds an exciting twist to the Sakura Watch as I will continue to follow the progress of these new developments and with more updates – come back again early next week for more – stay tuned!

Sakura Watch, May 11, 2016 – Gallery of a few blossoms in High Park

Sakura Watch, May 11, 2016 – Gallery of a few blossoms in High Park that I shot on Monday evening. I’m currently super busy in putting together a work event and won’t have a chance to visit again until this Friday, however after receiving numerous questions I wanted to post this to let people know what to expect in the park.

You will see a few blossoms – but when I say few, I mean very, very few. Expect to see a small cluster on a branch with the rest of tree bare.

What is up with the buds?

The main observation that has truly become a head scratcher is what is happening to the remaining buds on the trees? You see currently it would seem like on average about 60-70% of the trees buds have gone straight to leaf, an extremely small percentage of 1% have created blossoms, but the rest seem completely stagnant with no signs of any changes or growth in the past few weeks. This is highly unusual based on what I’ve seen in years prior and don’t know what to expect until the next few visits to see what is happening.

Something about Magnolias

Another item I feel a need to clarify is these flowers you see below are not cherry blossoms – these are magnolias. These are beautiful flowers, at least 10-20x larger then the average cherry blossom, and come in a few different varieties but the most common are these with the upper white petals and darker deep pink bases.

Sakura Watch, May 11, 2016 - Gallery of a few blossoms in High Park

Magnolia blossoms in bloom in a grand tree near the sakura cherry blossom grove in High Park May 9, 2016

Sakura Watch, May 11, 2016 - Gallery of a few blossoms in High Park

Magnolias in bloom in High Park in 2016 – photos by Steven Joniak – SakurainHighPark.com

I see the media and others online posting photos and declaring ‘the first cherry blossoms are here!’ when in reality its not a cherry blossom at all. The only similarity they share is that they both tend to blossom at the same time. But nonetheless, still go out and enjoy them – just don’t call them cherry blossoms.

Watch for more updates to come this weekend.

Sakura Watch, May 7, 2016 – Only a few blossoms to be seen

Sakura Watch, May 7, 2016 – Only a few blossoms to be seen throughout the park this Mother’s Day weekend in Toronto. Those looking to come out and expecting to see trees filled with delicate white flowers will instead be greeted with a game of ‘where’s the blossom?’ as they wander around the park in hopes of spotting a sakura cherry blossom.

You will be able to see blossoms on the trees but they will be extremely sparse to the point where you would be able to easily count how many are the tree. Upon my latest visit I snapped a few photos showing what you can expect in just how low the numbers are. Leaf fans (the green-on-tree ones, not the hockey ones) will enjoy seeing the daily greening of the trees as well as all other areas of the park as consistent warmer weather seems to finally be settling in, but the timing is unfortunately too late for our beloved blossoms.

Of course we shouldn’t  forget that High Park is a wonderful place to visit on any occasion as there is always something to see and enjoy. From magnolias to water fowl to all types of plants and flowers coming to life everywhere you look, spring time is definitely one of the most vibrant times to enjoy the park. There is far too much ugliness in the world constantly being pushed into our view that sometimes we need to retreat to a place where the beauty of what we tend to take for granted is just waiting to be discovered.

I hope you all take time to enjoy this Mother’s Day weekend and forget about being upset about the lack of blossoms and instead enjoy the few we do have. Isn’t even seeing just one sakura cherry blossom better then seeing none at all?

Have a great weekend and more updates will follow next week.

Sakura Watch, May 4, 2016 – First blossom may be the only one this year

Sakura Watch, May 4, 2016 – First blossom may be the only one this year to see in High Park. You can begin to point blame at the relentless freezing grip of old man winter, or claim it a result of climate change, or even blame the fear of Donald Trump becoming president scared the sakura blossoms to hide away, but no matter what we say there is no escaping the simple truth that there is nolonger a chance that a bloom of sakura cherry blossom in High Park will be seen in 2016.

No Bloom in 2016

As a result of my latest observations, I’m sadly changing my prediction to now state that there will be no peak bloom to view in High Park in 2016.

Yes I did see the first blossom today, however when I say ‘blossom’, its literally meant as in a single blossom, as in 1 lonely blossom on a tree filled with buds going to leaf. Looking throughout the park all I found was 1 tree with only 1 blossom. The consolation was seeing a small group of blossoms on the trunk of a nearby sakura tree. But unfortunately, every other cherry blossom tree in the park is going straight to leaf. The photos in today’s gallery illustrate the dire strait of bloom-less cherry trees in High Park.

What if we wait a little longer?

The single blossom and tiny cluster seen today were on the trees located between the High Park Zoo and Children’s Adventure Playground. These trees are usually the stragglers and last to bloom of the Somei Yoshino variety of blossoms in the park – the white, delicate, 5 petal flower we all love to see.

This leaves very little chance of any blossoms to bloom elsewhere and in fact I took my time to closely examine various trees and lower branches searching for any sign of advanced stages of floral development but sadly all the buds remain elongated and appear to be going to leaf. This weekend of May 6-8 will be a few days of consecutive good weather and may be the only opportunity for any shy blossoms to come out. But that would be a spring time miracle as no buds are showing any clear sign they are ready go bloom.

What happened?

To some it may be surprising to note this actually did happen before in 2005. That year the weather was bad enough with a late spring cold weather spell that essentially killed any bud growth as they were in the advanced stages of going to bloom. 2016 proved to be such an up and down year that we simply didn’t have enough consecutive warm days to help the trees along – going from cold to warm to cold every few days, essentially confused the trees and shocked the buds. The sakura cherry blossoms are very delicate and when they are stuck in this cycle long enough, they just forget blossoming and let the leaves take over instead.

Is there a bright side?

As evidenced today, and included in my gallery above, are photos showing that this weekend the grand magnolia tree adjacent to the sakura and near the Grenadier Restaurant is definitely in bloom and will be the sole star in High Park for this Mother’s Day weekend. Then there are the other variety of sakura blossoms known as the Akebono and Fugenzo that also seem to be getting close to come out and may even begin this weekend if the warm weather sticks around through to Sunday.

Yes some may consider these only a minor consolation prize to the peak bloom but these trees should also be respected and thankful to know that even in the toughest times there will always be some resilience and beauty to be found in nature. And this year may be a chance to cast some focus on the others who are usually out shawn by the ‘big show’ every year.

So I will continue to check on the sakura before the weekend and will have a next update in the coming days – stay tuned!

 

 

Sakura Watch, May 1, 2016 – Will we see blossoms this year?

Sakura Watch, May 1, 2016 – Will we see blossoms this year? That’s the troubling question on my mind as walking through the park this weekend showed no progress on bud floral development but instead seeing much more buds growing into leaves.

Usually we should be seeing the buds swell and begin to display their florets (blossom flower petals), but nearly all the sakura cherry blossom buds continue to remain closed and retaining elongated shapes which are usually associated with creating leaves instead of blooms. The significance becomes ever more clear when we look back at 2014 when the blossoms also came out later in May and compare those photos with today. The shape and size of the sakura buds are vastly different as seen in these two photos:

Sakura Watch, May 1, 2016 - Will we see blossoms this year?

Comparison of bud development from May 1, 2014 and May 1, 2016 by SakurainHighPark.com

So now the question remains ‘will we see the sakura cherry blossom bloom this year?’ Short answer, maybe.

Definitely there will not be a full bloom as last year since the later we get into May, the lower become the chances that the trees will be able to develop blossoms. Cooler weather seems to have definitely made an impact and helped cause the buds to stall in their floral development, but this coming week will be crucial to see if any advances into the next stages 3-5 will begin to product the florets. Otherwise, all we may be left with very few, if any, blossoms to enjoy this year at all. This now pushes the current predictions of May 5 out to later, possibly into the following week – lets hope development gets back on track soon!

There Is Hope

The bright side to the current situation is two-fold. First, nearly all other blossoms throughout the park are also late or only beginning which could signal the late bloom is effecting all the plants and trees and not just the sakura cherry blossoms. Even this grand magnolia tree near the Grenandier Cafe is only beginning to show its true colours:

Sakura Watch, May 1, 2016 - Will we see blossoms this year?

Couple view the grand magnolia tree in High Park, Toronto, shot April 30, 2016 by Steven Joniak – SakurainHighPark.com

The other bright point is that the second variety of sakura blossoms, known as the Akebono / Fugenzo, are for the first time in recent years in time with the rest of the sakura cherry blossoms. These trees are usually the later bloomers of late May to early June and are currently showing signs of buds developing into flower in the next few weeks. So it is still quite possible we may see all the sakura blossom varieties blooms together – time will tell whether mother nature is preparing a surprise for us in the weeks ahead. Let’s hope she is. Watch for more updates as now they will become more frequent – stay tuned!

Sakura Watch – April 24, 2016 – Starting to see some buds turn to leaves

Sakura Watch – April 24, 2016 – Starting to see some buds turn to leaves is a clear sign that the sakura cherry blossom development cycle has been interrupted by the up and down weather we have had this spring. This had happened before in 2014 where the blossoms had bloomed in the second week of May (similar to this year’s prediction) and the trees overall appeared to be more thinned – blossoms mixed with green leaves – offering a less stunning effect then full on blossoming trees.

Photos shot as part of this gallery show some of the buds beginning to allow their green leaves to emerge. Notice the elongated shape of these buds as they differ from what we would expected to see with a healthy sakura cherry blossom bud that tend to be more round and swollen – like a balloon. Now looking back at 2014 the photos from that year do better show what we can expect this year throughout the park.

The only trend that is a bit of concern is that many of the buds are still looking small and closed which may be signals that they too are going to be changing straight to leaves instead of blossoms as the longer we wait and later into May we go waiting for the buds to open up, the less amount of blooming flowers will be seen. Typical blooming times have in the past been starting around this week – late April and ending in early May. However since I’ve started this website in 2012, it has been becoming more and more apparent that each year as the cold weather has been unpredictable and lasting longer into April, the sakura cherry blossom trees have been suffering a bit more because of it.

Let’s hope that this year we do get to enjoy some blossoms sooner then later, and as of today we still to be on track for peak full bloom to occur between May 5-12th, 2016. Stay tuned for more updates to come!

Sakura Watch, April 18, 2016 – Green tips begin to emerge

Sakura Watch, April 18, 2016 – Green tips begin to emerge on the sakura cherry blossom buds after the cold weather has finally given way to sunny days and much warmer weather. The first signs of spring seems to have finally made its way into ‘the 6’ and the forecast calls for continued good weather and warm temperatures for the weeks ahead.

Great progress could be seen today as the buds show distinctive signs of swelling and prominent, healthy green tips – both clear signs that the blossom development is well into stage 2. The next couple weeks will be an exciting time for all Sakura Watchers as the most dramatic changes will begin to occur over the next few stages and continue to push us towards an early May full bloom!

This coming weekend should offer even clearer insight into how fast the progress is moving now that we have mother nature on our side. I’ll be examining the progress a bit more in depth throughout the park on my next visit and hope to offer even more accurate predictions for everyone.

So to all you sakura cherry blossom admirers its time to start getting geared up for the big show as its fast approaching in the weeks ahead! Stay tuned for more updates this weekend.