Petworth blooming: April showers bring May flowers...

Tulips along Grant Circle

by Steven Feingold

Do you ever find yourself walking around our beautiful neighborhood admiring the flowers, but with no clue what it is you’re looking at? Let me try to help. Welcome to "Petworth Blooming"... every month I’ll feature some of the most common plants seen around Petworth, and give a little info about each one. 

While warm weather arrived a little late this year, the full display of spring flowers is finally underway. One of the most common flowers seen around Petworth are Creeping Phlox. Planted all over the neighborhood, these plants create gorgeous carpets of color cascading over retaining walls. Available in lots of colors and also very low maintenance.

Creeping phlox on Allison Street and on 4th Street.

Tulips reach their peak in April. Their simple large bright colored flowers have long made them a favorite of gardeners. And they look great growing with phlox!

The beautiful bed of tulips in front of St. Gabriel’s church at Grant Circle

There were a bunch of flowering trees blooming in the neighborhood in April. I’ve skipped the Japanese cherry trees, since they get enough attention already. Unlike the cherry trees, Crabapple trees do not flower until after their leaves are starting to emerge. Both white and purple varieties can be found throughout Petworth.

Crabapples in the center of Sherman Circle

Purple crabapples at Grant Circle.

Kwanzan Cherries are also in full bloom now. This variety of cherry has a mutation causing extra petals to grow on each flower. Cherries normally only have five petals, just like apple, peach, pear, plum and almond trees. They are all part of the rose family of flowering plants.

The intricate flowers of a Kwanzan cherry tree on Kansas Ave.

Redbuds, on the other hand, are part of the bean family. If you look very closely at the flowers you can see the resemblance. The flowers are symmetric left-right rather than having circular symmetry like cherry blossoms. Later in the year, the seeds of redbuds look just like a pea pod. These trees are native throughout the eastern US and Canada.

A redbud tree on Decatur Street.

Another native tree blooming right now is the Serviceberry or Shadbush. Both common names reference events that historically coincided with this tree’s flower time. Serviceberry refers to when the ground had thawed enough to begin conducting burial services. Shadbush refers to when the shad fish swim back from the ocean to spawn in local rivers. This tree also has five petals in a circle, and sure enough, is part of the rose family.

Serviceberry tree on Upshur Street.

Finally, it wouldn’t be spring without pollen! Trees that are pollinated by the wind don’t need to have fancy colorful flowers, but they can be interesting nonetheless. Sweetgum trees have male flowers which look kind of like stalks of broccoli held above the branch, while the ball-shaped female flowers dangle below.

Sweetgum male and female flowers at E. L. Haynes school.

Coming up in May: Dogwoods, Iris, Lilies, Azaleas and much more!

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Steven Feingold

Steven moved to Petworth in 2013, and he and his wife have since adopted three of the neighborhood's finest felines. He works in the biotech industry, programming robotic laboratory equipment. He enjoys gardening, hiking, carpentry and playing pickup soccer. You can email him with any plant or gardening questions you might have.

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