With the Cherry Blossom Festival opening Friday, Cherry Blossom Watch 2013 has officially begun.
Bill Fickling III scoured his yard at lunchtime Tuesday and discovered about 2.5 percent of the roughly 200 trees are beginning to bloom at his grandfathers old homestead, where he now lives on Ingleside Avenue.
Boy, they are ready to pop, said Fickling, who has succeeded the late William A. Fickling Sr. as the familys resident expert on Yoshino cherry trees and their blooms.
Mild winters dont guarantee early blooms. It can mean the opposite, Fickling said.
Cherry trees are like peach trees that need a number of chill hours for the blooms and fruit to set, he said.
Grandfather Fickling kept a log for 10 years that tracked the earliest blooms and the last to fall off the trees. He found the average peak to occur on March 23, which happens to be the birthday of the elder Fickling, who co-founded the festival with Carolyn Crayton.
More than three decades ago, Crayton asked the Macon businessman for cuttings to plant in her Wesleyan Woods neighborhood, which is now on the Cherry Blossom Trail.
When asked Tuesday morning if she had seen any blossoms, Crayton replied, In our yard, yes, a big limb is blooming.
She had just driven out of her driveway under a branch full of blooms. Other mature trees along the street were still bare.
A younger tree was in full bloom at the corner of Ingleside Avenue and Hines Terrace, as was a large tree in the 700 block of Wimbish Road.
At the Fickling farm at the corner of Northside and Rivoli drives, only a few blossoms popped out on the trees along the fence.
Youve just got to wait a few more days and theyll jump out, said Don McWhorter, the farm manager, who was busy trimming with a Weed Eater. The peach trees are already blooming and theyre about a week ahead of the cherry blossoms.
Two cherry trees were in full bloom on the backside of the farm, which is not visible from the road.
Younger trees tend to bloom earlier, according to Bill Fickling III, who said his grandfathers log showed one of the original trees planted in the Ingleside front yard always bloomed days before the others.
The mature early bloomers around town were likely rooted from that tree, he said.
Festival marketing, media and executive assistant Lydia Moss has her own special tree she has been watching at Marlowe and Lattimore drives.
The other day, she saw flowers.
I liked to have killed myself jumping out of the car to take a picture, she said.
Buds on the trees on New Street next to the Cherry Blossom Festival headquarters have just started to open.
Just before the blossoms open, the buds are so swollen the tree gives off a glow Fickling refers to as the pink blush stage.
They only need a few more days of warm weather, he said.
With plenty of sunshine forecast, afternoon highs are expected to climb from near 60 degrees Wednesday and Thursday to upper 60s Friday and mid-70s by the weeks end. Morning lows range from upper 30s Wednesday to below freezing Thursday and moderating to mid-30s Friday, and 40s by the first weekend of the festival.
Fickling also noticed his azaleas are flowering early, the dogwoods wont be far behind and Bradford pear blossoms are lingering, too.
Thats very rare when they all bloom at once, he said.
Looks like this year could be one of those spectacular years, if the cherry blossoms oblige.
When it warms up, they pop open very quickly, Fickling said. You can almost sit in your chair and see them open.
To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.