‘It’s amazing’: Photographer marvels at Victoria’s already flowering plum, cherry trees

'It's amazing': Photographer marvels at Victoria's already flowering plum, cherry trees
Photos: Doug Clement
Victoria-based photographer Doug Clement captured these photos along View Street. Early February 2024.

Just days into February, Victoria’s Doug Clement has a camera in hand as he marvels at the bright, iconic blossoms already blooming along View Street.

“It’s amazing,” exclaimed Clement.

So the local photographer quickly posted the photos to his Facebook on Saturday, Feb. 3, to encourage others to see the plum and cherry trees, adorned in eye-popping pink hues, for themselves.

“That’s why I do it,” said Clement, who’s been a photographer for more than three decades. “I like to show people where to go and things to check out. To get them outside, that’s always been my message. I hope to motivate people.”

His page, Doug Clement Photography, has more than 33,000 followers, with the latest blossom post nearing 2,500 reactions and 1,000 shares.

But given the timing, it’s a seldom-seen sight, says Clement. To his knowledge, it’s been at least 10 years since these trees were in bloom this soon.

“About 2013. It was around then,” he said, recalling the last time he saw them this early into the year. “Last year, they were a couple of weeks late. This year, everything’s early. It’s strange how the weather pattern works here.”

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The city’s interactive map highlights plum and cherry tree locations, but it notes they usually don’t bloom along this stretch of View Street until mid-February.

Of course, plants need heat to thrive.

According to the ‘X’ account Victoria Weather Records, B.C.’s capital broke or almost broke 41 weather records last month, including on Jan. 31 when the highest maximum temperature hit 13.5°C. It also says Sunday was the 15th consecutive day with maximum temperatures reaching 8°C or greater.

“I much prefer this. But who knows, we might even get snow still. You never know in Victoria,” Clement said in an interview.

The photographer, who specializes in landscape and nature shots, used his iPhone and Canon cameras to capture the blossom photos. He lauds Victoria as being home to some of the most striking flowering trees he’s ever seen.

“Other than Vancouver, but our’s is definitely early. I don’t think Vancouver has shown any yet. Certainly not Calgary,” he laughed.

On the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival website, people can learn the difference between plum and cherry trees. Plums have a more fragrant smell, while cherries have a split at the end of each petal.

Historic and symbolic significance

The City of Victoria says there are nearly 5,000 plum and cherry street trees, “a beloved feature of our parks and boulevards,” across town.

“Cherry and plum blossoms marking the start of spring will always be a big part of what makes Victoria picture-perfect for residents and visitors,” the city said in a statement.

These trees date back decades. They’ve been scattered around Victoria since 1937, replacing large trees planted at the turn of the 20th century.

“When they were looking for solutions, they came up with the idea of Japanese cherry and Japanese plum. And local Japanese got involved and made a donation of over 1,000 trees,” Ken Roueche, a Victoria historian, told CHEK News in 2019.

“So that’s an important part of our heritage,” he added, while his 2005 book, A Fairfield History, dives further into this history.

“The city recognizes the historic importance and symbolic significance of cherry blossom trees and intends to maintain an ongoing presence of these trees,” the city added.

‘I love it’

It’s this petal power that keeps Clement passionate about his photography, which highlights not just Victoria but other parts of Vancouver Island for all to see.

“I love it. I was born and raised here, and I’ve lived here all my life. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else but Victoria. It’s pretty climatized,” he added.

“In Canada, I don’t think we could get it any better. You don’t have to leave the Island. There’s so much to see here.”

And his online posting is paying off. Just like the trees, his feat has flourished.

Clement describes the positive feedback on his Facebook page as “awesome” and “great,” especially considering he got into photography “long before” social media.

“People have definitely gone on adventures based on what I’ve told them. They get back to me,” he added. “I get a lot of good feedback like that.”

View the city’s plum and cherry tree map here.

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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