SULLIVAN: We better get a cherry on top of this frozen winter

There’s a lingering patch of snow I can see outside my living room window that violates the bargain we all make with southern British Columbia.

The bargain? We put up with four months of rain and there’s never snow on the ground in March.

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Yet, there it is, implacable, undeniable. Where do they think we are? Winnipeg?

I have trouble avoiding this lingering emblem of a wet coast winter gone wrong.  For all I know, it may be the last major patch of snow in the entire Lower Mainland, and it’s maliciously decided to park itself just outside my window.

 All I can say is that it better be gone in time for the Cherry Blossom Festival, which opens April 4 and celebrates the incredible blooming of the 43,000 cherry trees around Metro Vancouver.

The early varieties (e.g. “Whitcomb”) have already been rudely betrayed by a deceptively mild January, only to be frozen into a cherry coma throughout the coldest February on record. But the vast majority of the trees have refused to be fooled and are keeping their blossoms close to their vests until sanity is restored, if that’s even possible in the climatically challenged 21st century.

My love affair with the cherry blossoms goes back to my first day in Vancouver, which was also an April 4 about 2,000 years ago: two guys with leaf blowers walking along Georgia Street, blowing cherry blossoms off the sidewalks into the gutters. I was freshly arrived from Toronto, where the only things swept into the gutter were cigarette butts and dog poo. If you were lucky.

I was astounded, in a good way. Since then, I’ve been hooked on sakura. And the Cherry Blossom Festival just enhances the delight.

If you want to learn more about the Cherry Blossom Festival, the place to go, not surprisingly, is the Cherry Blossom Festival website. The festival refers to itself as a “charitable, not-for-profit society whose mission is to sustain and renew Vancouver’s cherry tree heritage while actively engaging diverse communities in arts and culture to celebrate the fragile beauty of the cherry blossom.”

As mission statements go, celebrating the fragile beauty of the cherry blossom is right up there with “world peace.” Who’s gonna argue?

There’s all kinds of stuff going on at the festival, including a haiku writing contest.

For example: Fools scribble haikus/Only Mother Nature can/Write a cherry bloom.

Not bad, eh?

Meanwhile, there’s a map on the site with the location of all 2,689 favourite cherry blossom sites in Metro, including a rather pathetic dozen or so on the North Shore. Trees we’ve got; cherry trees not so much.

If it’s any consolation, many of the 50 different varieties at the various locations were late last year as well. While we all remember years the blossoms were just about finished before the festival even started, there are probably just as many years when they’re still going strong when the festival concludes during the last week of April. Last year, for example, the blossoms on the Kanzan variety trees along Taylor Way didn’t open until April 25 and lasted until May 8, which is almost two months from now, for those of you keeping score.

We just conveniently forgot, mainly because it violates the wet coast bargain.

Then there’s the Flower Count.

 It’s an annual event in Victoria that takes place right around now, totally infuriating the rest of Canada. People go around counting flowers and submitting them to a central floral database. Last year, they allegedly counted a grand total of 3,467,394,781 blooms in and around the capital, but they’ll be hard-pressed to crack into the billions this year, I’d wager.

Environment Canada, that scamp, is calling for continued Prairie weather conditions along the B.C. south coast for the rest of March. I guess that means lots of sunshine, but speaking of varieties, I prefer the variety of sunshine that comes with warmth. We’re not on an Arctic expedition here. This is Lotus Land, right?

And cherry blossom land….

And flower count land….


I wonder how long/I can go without looking/Out of the window.

Journalist and communications consultant Paul Sullivan has been a North Vancouver resident since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the rise of Madonna.

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