Dogwood Festival earlier this year, blossoms aren't
Timing is everything.
That's particularly true when it comes to predicting when the delicate pink and white petals on Fairfield's thousands of dogwood trees will blossom each spring.
That's why the Dogwood Festival this year won't be held on Mother's Day weekend, as it traditionally has been scheduled most years in the past.
"Last year, we had like three little blossoms on the trees. Spring seemed to come early," Heidi Prom, a member of the Dogwood Festival committee, said Monday of why the 78th annual Dogwood Festival will take place this weekend, a week before the usual Mother's Day weekend. "Mother Nature was probably the biggest reason. ... We wanted to make sure the dogwoods were in bloom."
Prom said the Dogwood Festival, held every spring on the grounds of the historic Greenfield Hill Congregational Church, has not always been on Mother's Day weekend, and that the weekend honoring moms also now seems to have more competing events, such as art shows and festivals and communions, than in previous years.
Tom Wambach, chairman of the Dogwood Festival Committee, said organizers also thought it would be nice to enable festival volunteers who are moms to celebrate Mother's Day with their families.
"We thought we would try something different this year," he said.
But springtime temperatures so far this year have been cool, and the dogwoods near the church were just starting to bloom Monday, said town Tree Warden Ken Placko and Melanie Fox, perennial manager at Oliver Nurseries on Bronson Road.
"I think they are a little bit late because usually by now they've kind of flowered out," Placko said as he inspected buds on a few dogwood trees near the church at 1045 Old Academy Road. "It's the early beginning, but it seems a little late this year. Usually they're out by Arbor Day.
"But I think they'll be fine by the festival -- you get a little sun on them and they'll take off," Placko added.
Warm temperatures and sun prompt dogwood trees to blossom, Placko said, and the forecast for the days leading up to Friday, the first day of this year's festival, called for sun and high temperatures in the mid-60s.
Fox, who's scheduled to give a talk on hydrangeas at the Dogwood Festival's luncheon on Friday, said, "I think we're slightly ahead of the curve.
"We're not going to be in full bloom for the festival," Fox said, adding that the timing is off because of the cool spring and the earlier start for the festival. "They will be in bloom, but not in full, full bloom."
But dogwood trees are only part of the attraction of the annual festival, which raises money for charities supported by Greenfield Hill Congregational Church. This year's festival will include guided walking tours, musical performances, arts and crafts vendors, an art show, plant and garden boutique, road race, giant tag sale, a luncheon on Friday, barbecue Saturday night, children's games and a Blessing of the Animals ceremony Sunday. "There's something for everybody," Prom said.
Wambach said net proceeds from the festival benefit more than 30 local, national and international charities and that the festival is a great way to enjoy the scenery in upper Greenfield Hill and help people at the same time. "I look forward to it every year," he said.
Placko said dogwoods in the Greenfield Hill area are healthy and the town didn't have to spray this year for anthracnose, a fungus that weakens the trees' bark and enables an insect known as a dogwood borer to invade, Placko said.
But dogwoods in the town's Fairfield Beach neighborhood weren't as fortunate. Placko said Superstorm Sandy last October pretty much killed off dogwood trees along main roads in Fairfield's shoreline neighborhood. "You could almost say all the dogwoods down there are dead," he said. "This area (Greenfield Hill) got a little spared because it's higher up and didn't get inundated with salt water."
Placko said the number of dogwoods along roads leading into the festival remains at 450 to 500 because residents faithfully replace trees that have to be removed. "They do like their dogwoods up here, as well as all over town," he said.
Under the town's tree-planting program, a resident can request that a tree be planted in the right-of-way in front of his or her house and Placko will look at the area and suggest a tree. If the resident agrees with Placko's recommendation, the town will partially cover the cost of planting the tree. Placko said the town this year ordered about 150 trees and that 100 residents typically take part in the program every year.
It's unlikely, though, that dogwoods will be replaced at Fairfield Beach under the planting program because they don't handle salt water well, Placko said. He said flowering cherry trees may be a good alternative because they survived Superstorm Sandy well. "When they were under water, it's surprising how well they bounced back," he said.
Hours of the 78th annual Dogwood Festival are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free and a shuttle bus will take festival-goers from Dwight School on Redding Road to the festival at no charge.
For the schedule of events at this year's festival, visit Greenfield Hill Congregational Church's website, www.greenfieldhillchurch.com.