Todd Forrest is the Arthur Ross Vice President for Horticulture and Living Collections at The New York Botanical Garden.
Seasoned tree lovers often experience a bit of anxiety during unseasonably warm winter weather. Extended thaws in January and February can cause the fuzzy gray buds of the magnolias to swell in anticipation of the bloom, elevating the risk of frost damage should cold spells show up later on. Nothing is so disheartening as magnolia flowers turned to ugly brown mush by a surprise spring freeze.
Sometimes things do work out, however. There were brief warm spells this winter, but there were also long periods of deep cold and the magnolia buds didn’t really get moving until March. The weather warmed gradually from March into April, and we are now entering the beginning of one of the most dazzling horticultural spectacles of the year.
I just did a quick trip to see the magnolias in our historic Magnolia Collection (yes, inspecting flowering trees is among my many grueling job duties) and things are moving fast. Temperatures on Monday reached the high 70s, and the saucer magnolias, which are showing a lot of color, will pop soon. The star and Kobus magnolias are in full glorious flower right now. Fortunately, temperatures are meant to moderate for the remainder of the week, so the show should hold on and be perfect for the weekend. Take it from this acute PMA sufferer: this will be the best magnolia season we have had in a long time.
Magnolias are only one of many spring delights still in store. Daffodil Hill and Daffodil Valley are starting to show color. The Japanese flowering apricots at the Ladies’ Border and the earliest flowering cherries in the Ross Conifer Arboretum are in full bloom. Glory-of-the-snow carpets the Perennial Garden and the Rock Garden is sprinkled with a mix of crocus, species tulips, species daffodils, and other early bulbs. Lilacs, tree peonies, tulips, dogwoods, and countless other spring beauties to come!
Stave off FOMO by getting to NYBG ASAP. And come back again and again over the next few months. Every week in spring brings something to please the eye and lift the spirits.