Spring officially arrives this week, but signs of the new season are already evident in California, where cherry trees at our orchards across the state are covered by beautiful blossoms right now. Every year, bloom signals the start of a new cherry season and for this post, I thought it would be fun to share the latest photos from our cherry orchards in California to fill you in on what happens during this beautiful – and important – stage of cherry development.

January 2014: Coming Out of Dormancy

This is what cherry trees look like pre-bloom when they are in a resting state, called dormancy. It’s a sight that you are probably familiar with during the winter season in your own home garden. Just like many plants, cherry trees blossom, gain leaves (and fruits), and then shed those leaves in the fall. The same cycle repeats itself each year.

February 2014: The First Blossoms

There are two main factors that determines when a particular cherry tree will bloom – the variety of cherry planted and the location of the orchard. In general, cherry bloom moves from south to north latitudes due to warmer weather and the location’s proximity to the equator. Variety also dictates bloom with early, mid, and late varieties all part of the picture. The photo below is of an early cherry variety, and was one of the first trees to blossom in California this year. It was taken in mid-February in Patterson, CA.

March 2014: Full Bloom

Following the very first cherry blossoms, we’ll see more trees start to flower in each orchard, and eventually the “full bloom” period in each growing district. The photo below below was taken late last week in Brentwood, CA during full bloom. This is a critical time for cherries. Growers hope for ideal weather – warm with little wind – to encourage honeybees to pollinate blossoms and eventually “set” the new cherry crop.

March 2014: New Cherries Develop

Shortly after full bloom and pollination, blossoms dry up and start to fall off the tree, while at the same time, the start of what will become a cherry emerges from the shuck (see below). The crop officially sets and growers now get a better idea of the volume of cherries they might harvest and when cherries will come off their trees. Of course, nothing is ever set in stone for cherries as the fruits are very vulnerable to any weather curveballs thrown by Mother Nature.

March 2014: Post Bloom

Signs of cherry blossoms have disappeared and now leaves and tiny green fruits adorn trees. The green cherries will grow in size, shape, and change color as they ripen over the next 60-80 days. California cherries are harvested starting in late April and ending in early to mid June.

Coming Soon: California Cherries

I couldn’t think of a better way to wrap up a post on cherry bloom than sharing a sneak peek of what’s coming soon from our orchards in California. This photo was taken during harvest in California during a past cherry crop. Follow us on Facebook for more real-time photos from the field and look for delicious Stemilt cherries to start arriving in your stores in May!