2017-05-18 / Local News

Prettiest time of year blooms in Leelanau

By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff

Cool temperatures delayed fruit tree development and ramped up anticipation for what could arguably be called the most beautiful time in northern Michigan: blossom time.

Blocks of white blossoms against a backdrop of blue sky and green grass can be glimpsed from about anywhere on the Leelanau Peninsula.

Early sweet varieties such as gold and Napoleans hit their peak Friday and by Monday the tart varieties of Montmorency and Balaton were in full bloom at the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center in Bingham Township.

“We have ton of bee activity,” said Nikki Rothwell, director of the research center.

From May 5 through 9 temperatures at the National Weather Service cooperative weather station in Maple City, high temperatures failed to make it past 55.

During the same period nighttime lows dropped below freezing on four straight nights.

Sweet varieties arrived at full bloom right about the usual dates of May 6 for Napoleans and May 9 for golds.

That made them susceptible to the cooler nighttime temperatures.

“We’ve seen a little damage in the sweets,” Rothwoll said.

However, the same unseasonably cool weather that stung the sweets had little impact on tarts whose blossoms were tight, insulating buds from frost.

High temperatures of 60 or more were recorded on six of the past seven days since, hastening full bloom in Montmorencys Monday. That was three days after the 34-year average “full bloom” date of May 12.

“It wasn’t coming, wasn’t coming and then it hit … I’m hear to tell you,” said Sally Guzowski, staff member at the Leelanau Peninsula Chamber of Commerce.

These same temperatures and little precipitation have created optimium pollination conditions for the county’s fruit crops.

“The honey bee hives are strong and the blossoms are opening like crazy,” Rothwell said.

Visitors at a rate of five or six a day have been calling the county Chamber office for the past three weeks, looking for a blossom report.

“A lot of them come up to take pictures, “ Guzowski said, recalling an occasion when one man insisted she idenify the exact location of a pictured blossom scene. “It was somewhere on the Leelanau Trail — that covers about 15 miles.”

Blossoms from Leelanau first fall crop, apples are also visible. McIntosh was in the “open cluster” phase of development. Galas are in king bloom.

“Farmers have a challenge in terms of how much to thin,” Rothwell said.

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