The valley garden of Glendurgan on the banks of the Helford River in Cornwall is already bright with spring blossom – vivid pinks, deep purples, the purest of whites. “It’s an extraordinary sight after the tough winter we’ve had,” said the head gardener, John Lanyon. “It feels inspiring, blissful.”
The blossom comes early in this sheltered spot in the far south-west of England, and over the coming days, weeks and months the spectacular colours will steadily spread east and north.
To celebrate the explosion of brightness, the National Trust is launching its second BlossomWatch campaign, encouraging people to begin a new UK tradition emulating hanami, the Japanese custom of relishing the fleeting sight and scent of blossom.
The campaign last year was extraordinarily successful, with thousands of people sharing images on social media of blossoms they had seen during their lockdown walks or from their windows. In just over a fortnight, more than 4 million people viewed the images.
The trust believes even more could take part this spring – and the weather means the explosion of hues could be even more spectacular.
Lanyon said he was not surprised that people responded so enthusiastically to the campaign last year. “After the rain and mud and cold, suddenly in spring everything feels full of life again. The air feels cool and crisp. The blossom is mesmerising, refreshing,” he said.
A YouGov poll commissioned by the conservation charity found that nature and time outdoors had been a salvation for many during this latest lockdown. Two-thirds (67%) of adults said spending time noticing nature around them had made them feel happier, and 65% said watching nature from their window had helped their mood. Nearly half said they were spending more time in nature and wanted to continue to do so when things went back to normal.
Separate research led by Miles Richardson, a professor of human factors and nature connectedness at the University of Derby, suggests you do not have to spend hours in nature to benefit. Richardson said: “Spending a few moments looking at and enjoying blossom can have a surprising impact on feelings of wellbeing. Moments in nature can help people recover from the stresses and strains of the pandemic.”
Simon Toomer, a plant conservation specialist at the National Trust, agreed that taking just a moment to take in the sight of blossom could help. “Blossom watching is a simple pleasure that can help lift our spirits over the next few months,” he said. “It can be seen on city streets, in gardens, public parks, throughout the countryside and even out of the window, for some lucky people.”
This year the trust is planning to launch a map tracking the progress of the blossom across the country. Toomer said: “Hedgerow blossom typically kicks off the season with the tiny white, frothy blackthorn flowers crisscrossing the countryside, before tree blossom like magnolias start to unfurl and the many varieties of delicately coloured fruit tree blossom take it in turns to bloom – from plum and damson to cherry and apple – before the finale of the white hawthorn coming into flower in May.”
The spell of warm weather that many parts enjoyed earlier this month brought on some blossom, but Toomer said much more was around the corner. “The lingering cool temperatures will tend to hold back the blossom, so that when it warms up we’re likely to get an explosion.”
To get involved, take and share imagery on social media with the hashtag #BlossomWatch.