Saturday, April 21, 2012

Ottawa in Bloom

This spring has been unseasonably warm in the nation's capital.  On March 20th, the first day of spring, it was 25 degrees Celsius here in Ottawa.  Average monthly temperature for March? Minus 2.5 degrees.  On this glorious summery day, I celebrated by dusting off my bike and taking a tour around my favourite bike paths.  This, naturally, lead me to Dow's Lake, where I decided to check on the progress of the tulips that are the star of the Canadian Tulip Festival.  Sure enough the tulips were getting an early start.
Tulip shoots stretch out towards the sun on the first day of spring 
One month later, on a similarly beautiful day, I again visited the tulips.  There's still two weeks until the start of the festival, but the tulips are well on their way.  Some of the beds of early bloomers are 80% in bloom, while other beds are bursting with buds, waiting for their moment to shine.  I'm sure by the opening weekend, they'll be in full swing.  If you're planning on visiting this year, plan to go sooner rather than later.  As you can see, there are already many beautiful blooms to appreciate.  I find the best way to enjoy the festival, for those who live in the area, is to visit more than once throughout the month so that you catch the early, mid, and late blooming varieties. Here are a few of the early risers:
This bed of soft flamingo pink tulips were in full bloom.

The unique shape and tangerine colour of these tulips made them my favourite of the day

A sea of buttery yellow double daffodils, punctuated by fiery red tulips, overlook Dow's Lake
Tulips and daffodils aren't the only flowers strutting their stuff in April.  The Arboretum is located on the western shore of Dow's lake, and displays a wide variety of trees and shrubs.  It's essentially a tree museum.  It includes a collection of Kobushi (Magnolia kobus) and Star Magnolias (Magnolia stellata), which are native to Japan, but ornamental varieties are grown in North America and Europe.  The flowers bloom before the trees leaf out, making them one of the earliest flowering trees in the area.  Their elegant, creamy, white and pink blooms have a delicate, sweet fragrance that attract humans and insects alike.

The petals of these magnolia blossoms are so thick and creamy, they look like they have been molded out of fondant 
One of the visitors enjoying these blossoms is also enjoying just about every corner of the city.  The mild spring has brought a record high number of migrating Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) butterflies to the area. Here is a situation where global warming has been beneficial - warmer temperatures mean a successful breeding season, and lower mortality rates during their migration[1].  The result is a city awash in fluttering red and brown wings, and plenty of photo ops for nature enthusiasts like me.

A Red Admiral indulging in the sweetness of the  magnolia blossoms