Blossom watch

Take time to admire spring blossom, whether this be from your window, down the street on your daily exercise or in your garden if you’re lucky enough to have it grow there. You can also learn more about how these floral wonders support wildlife.

In this article:

Although we’re in extraordinary times and the way we live our lives has dramatically changed, blossom will continue to be a symbol of new life wherever it grows, including parks, down your street or in gardens we care for. Reassuringly, nature will always be there to welcome us back.

Blossom is one of the first signs that spring is well and truly on the way, and is a welcome sight of colour after the frosty winter months. From the pinker hues to the cloudy white, these delicate blossoms are a joyful sight and a reminder that warmer days are on their way. 

Cherry blossom and apple blossom are not only beautiful to look at, they also support a variety of wildlife. Open your window and notice how the warm spring air fluffs up the petals on blossom trees, or take a moment on your daily walk or run to look out for birds that might be attracted to these trees down your street.

Blossoming trees in our care

We care for hundreds of trees that blossom in the spring, many of which are historical varieties. This includes the tree said to inspire Newton's theory of gravity and the orchard that Thomas Hardy loved to play in as a child.

In Japan, spring blossom is celebrated with the traditional custom of Hanami, which means ‘flower viewing’ and is an opportunity to take in the beauty of flowers.

Notice the calming effects of spring blossom

Spending time to dwell on nature can improve your wellbeing.  Research shows that just 20 minutes could help to improve your mood. But only six per cent of adults and seven per cent of children take the time to celebrate seasonal events such as the first day of spring.

Take a different route on your daily exercise to see if you can spot blossom in your neighbourhood and embrace the turn of the season. Why not take a quick snap of a blossoming tree and send it to your loved ones to share the moment with others?

For younger ones, as part of our '50 things to do before you’re 11¾', celebrating blossom could mean you watch a bird singing loudly in a tree (no. 44) or get up for the sunrise (no. 23) to use your daily walk to see how the golden hour lights up blossoming trees down your street in different ways.

Celebrate Hanami wherever you are and connect with nature to lift your spirits, even if it's just for a moment or so.

Identifying spring blossom

When do apple trees blossom UK

Apple trees

Apple blossom appears from March-April and is white with a hint of pink. It grows in hedgerows and scrubland in moist, heavy soil. It's a short tree with greyish-brown flecked bark and a gnarled ('crabbed') shape. Crab apple trees often indicate past human habitation – the apples can be used in cooking and the wood is good for carving and firewood.

When do cherry trees blossom

Cherry trees

Wild cherry produces small baubles of white flowers covering the tree in April-May with a confident flourish. It loves sunlight and fertile soil, typically growing singly in hedgerows or at woodland edges. The bark is a stunning reddish-brown marked with horizontal 'scars'.

Close up of blackthorn blossom

Blackthorn shrubs

Blackthorn is one of the first shrubs to burst into flower in March. The white blossom appears before the leaves. The tree is short with smooth, dark brown bark and found in hedgerows and scrub in full sun. The tree can often last up to 100 years and traditionally was used for making walking sticks or shillelaghs in Ireland.

Willow blossom in spring at Wicken Fen National Trust Nature Reserve, Cambridgeshire

Goat willow trees

There are many types of willow, but it’s the goat or grey willow with the clouds of yellow catkins that stand out in March and April. It's often found near damper areas of woodland, or near streams and ditches. The grey-brown bark becomes marked over time by diamond-shaped fissures and the twigs glow red-yellow in winter sunlight.

Hawthorn in flower at Stockbridge Down, Hampshire

Hawthorn trees

The fragrant pinkish-white flowers appear after April, and so it is also known as May-flower. It is often found in hedgerows, woodland edges and scrubland. Hawthorn wood is hard and very finely grained and in the past was used for making cabinets, boxes and tool handles. It also makes good firewood and charcoal.

Elderflower blossom

Elderflower trees

The clusters of cream flowers appear in late May, and the trees they bloom on can be found in woodland, scrub and hedgerows. The bark is grey-brown with a corky furrowed texture. It is thought that the name 'elderflower' comes from the Anglo-Saxon 'aeld', meaning fire. The hollow stems were used to blow air into the centre of a fire.

Codger's Fort on the estate at Wallington, Northumberland

Podcast: A toast to blossom

Why not listen to our special blossom podcast episode? We chat to Andy Beer, author of the new book, Every Day Nature to hear how the arrival of blossom is a date not to be missed on his nature calendar.

A showcase of blossom for armchair viewing

" Orchards are the gauge of all the seasons – from bare branches springs new life in the spring, and with the help of pollinating insects, blossom becomes fruit over the summer, which we pick in the autumn and create food and drink, before the trees ‘power down’ for their winter ‘sleep’."
- David Bouch, Head Gardener at Cotehele

Why blossom matters

Children in the orchard at Ardress House, County Armagh, Northern Ireland

Growing wild in orchards we care for

As part of our work to encourage wildlife, we’re planting 68 new orchards on sites in England and Wales by 2025. Traditional orchards are great for wildlife — the trees are planted further apart and wildflowers are often grown underneath them to encourage pollinators to pollinate blossom when the trees flower in spring.

Small tortoiseshell butterfly at Morden Hall Park, London

A vital habitat for birds, bees and badgers

An abundance of wildlife thrives on blossom. Bees seek pollen from wild cherry and apple blossoms. Caterpillars and butterflies love the leaves of goat willow and elderflower blossoms. Song thrushes and blackbirds eat the fruit produced by the trees and hunt for insects among the blossom. Badgers, mice, voles and foxes eat the fruit that falls to the ground.

How you can help support nature

In recent years, we’ve seen how climate change can impact the health of habitats such as blossom. It’s now more important than ever to play our part, big or small, in keeping these homes as healthy havens for wildlife. You can play your part by making a promise for nature and making your garden a place for wildlife to thrive.

From simply letting the grass grow, to making seed balls for the birds and building a bug hotel, we’ve got loads of ideas to get you started.

Help the wildlife in your garden and make your promise
Woodblock print by Andō Hiroshige

Blossom in our collections 

Japanese Sakura (spring blossom) has inspired many artists and ceramicists throughout history. Celebrate this natural spring show through some of the most expressive objects in our collections.

Blossom on one of the pear trees in the orchard

Support nature and wildlife 

From butterflies to blossom, the places we care for are home to a huge amount of diverse nature and wildlife that needs our support. Give today and together, we can help nature recover, bring people closer to it, and ensure our shared history continues to inspire us all. Thank you for your continued support.