It's still too early to guess with any confidence when DC's cherry blossoms will bloom in 2020, and no peak bloom forecasts have been issued yet. Stay tuned for the first peak bloom forecasts to be announced around the beginning of March.
The winter so far has been much warmer than normal. January and February have both tracked well above average. If that continues--and that's always a big "if"--it points to an earlier-than-average bloom, more late-March than early-April. But there's still plenty of time for cold weather to arrive and settle in, so it's still too early to predict with confidence.
Progress has been brought to a crawl by the cool temperatures. If you look very closely, the buds are making headway, but it’s very, very slow.
If you’re heading down to the Tidal Basin this weekend, I’ve got some suggestions below on where to go hunting for blossoms. I’ve also included updates on the magnolias and Reflecting Pool below.
The big news from the past few days is that the National Park Service and the Washington Post‘s Capital Weather Gang both pushed their peak bloom prediction dates back. The new dates are:
NPS: March 27 to 31
Washington Post: March 30 to April 3
While the buds got an early start back in February due to the warm temperatures, they’ve gotten stuck in the green buds stage longer than expected in these cooler temperatures we’ve been seeing. And what you can see on the trees isn’t matching what the NPS’s mathematical model is predicting.
As you can see from the photos below, some are ahead of others. There are a few flowers out on the indicator tree, but even it still isn’t in full bloom. Some other early bloomers are much further along than the others, but the majority are still stuck in the green buds or florets visible stages (that is, the first two of five development stages tracked by the National Park Service before actually blooming).
What Can I See This Weekend?
If you head down to the Tidal Basin this weekend, you won’t see many cherry blossoms. The vast majority of the trees still have some work to do and are in bud stages.
But if you want to see at least some cherry blossom flowers, here are some suggestions on where to look. The odds of seeing some are marginally better on Sunday simply because it allows them just a little extra time to do their thing and Sunday is expected to be a touch warmer.
- Indicator Tree. This is a single tree that is consistently ahead of the others. It has some flowers on it already, but it’s not in full bloom yet. You can see some photos of how it looks this morning down below. It’s not the prettiest tree, and it’s a hard one to take photos of because its main branch is up quite high. But if you just want to glimpse some cherry blossoms, this is a sure thing even if there are relatively few flowers out on it yet. I have a guide to finding it here.
- In Front of the FDR Memorial. There are some trees along the waterline directly in front of the FDR Memorial (about half way along) that are often early and are currently leading the pack. As of this morning, they’re not yet flowering, and while there aren’t any really warm temperatures expected in the next few days to push things along, there is some chance they might have a few flowers coming out later in the weekend. It’s at least worth a look.
And while they’re not cherry blossoms, I’d highly recommend a visit to the Enid A. Haupt Garden behind the Smithsonian Castle for the saucer magnolias. When they’re in full bloom they’re quite spectacular. They’re not in full bloom yet, but they’re expected to reach full bloom late this weekend or early next week.
Photos taken this Morning
Here’s a sense of how things look this morning.
There’s been only a little progress since Monday.
The magnolias have also been slowed down, and while they’re close, they’re not yet in full bloom. The horticulturalist at the Smithsonian Gardens expected the ones in the Enid A. Haupt Garden to reach full bloom late in the weekend or early next week.
Here are some shots from this morning of the ones at the George Mason Memorial next to the Tidal Basin.
The parking lot by the paddle boats is closed to parking to make way for the Welcome Area. It will remain closed for parking at least through April 1.
As of this morning, traffic flow around Ohio Drive and the area is normal. At some point soon the special one-way restrictions will be put in place, but I haven’t seen any sign of them setting up for that this coming weekend. They usually only do it when things get really busy close to the peak.
Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool
It’s being refilled. Early this morning it was about half full. I’d expect to be full later today or tomorrow. The shot at the top of the page was taken this morning.
Also worth mentioning is that while the Lincoln Memorial remains open, the sides and back are barricaded off as they do repairs on the roof. You can still access the steps and the main chamber.
Gear Rental Deals
If you’re looking to rent some gear, there are some deals worth knowing about:
- BorrowLenses has 15% off any rental. Use coupon code TAKE15OFF. Offer expires 3/12 and orders must be delivered/picked up by/on 3/19. They’re also offering 20% off a selection of popular gear (use coupon code 20FOR20 and only applies to these lenses and cameras. And they also have free shipping this week on orders over $99 with coupon code GETFREESHIPPING (Expires 3/19. Order Must be Picked up/Delivered by 3/23).
- Lens Pro to Go currently has 15% to 25% off through March (must be delivered by March 30).
Locally, Ace Photo, District Camera, and f8 Rentals also offer rental gear, although their selections are often not as extensive as the big online places. And if you’re shooting video, DC Camera’s offerings have some interesting gear.
Sony Trade-In Offer at B&H Photo
Coinciding with the release of their new Sony A7III, Sony is putting an aggressive marketing push behind the other cameras in their Alpha range. That includes a trade-in deal where you can trade in your old non-Sony gear for one of their newer cameras (but not the brand-new A7III, it seems). You can get a quote immediately online as well as get a special trade-in bonus. You can find details at B&H Photo.
Want to Help Support DC's Cherry Trees?
If you'd like to help support the care and upkeep of the cherry trees around the Tidal Basin, the Trust for The National Mall has launched an Endow a Cherry Tree Campaign. Donations go to the official Cherry Tree Endowment, which will give the National Park Service additional resources to fund the care, maintenance, and possible replacement of the cherry trees. You can find more information here.
The Trust is dedicated to marshaling private support for maintaining and improving the history National Mall area. I'm not affiliated with the Trust--just an admirer of their efforts.