Soon the main blossom storm from all the fruit trees will begin in a pink and white froth of sloe, damson, plum, pear, apple, cherry flowers. You’ll notice the loaded trees and you can’t miss the wedding-worthy carpets of petals as they fall and fade. Before this occurs though, without the fanfare and festivals, there are already trees in flower, weeks in advance of leaf break. These flowers may be more modest, but they are often unusual and are worth seeking out, even though you need to get close to see them.
For instance, at the end of January the Persian Ironwood, Parrotia persica opens it furry calyx to reveal startling red stamen that really look like little tongues. The trees are often grown for autumn leaf colour as well, so parks are good places to look for this one. There is a lovely example in the Cambridge Botanical Gardens, opposite the corner of the systemic bed area. This particular tree dates from the 1880s and has a curious structure because the branches have self-grafted and fused to form a complex latticework. http://www.cam.ac.uk/museums-and-collections/collaborative-projects/my-museum-favourite/parrotia-persica
In February, the Cornelian Cherry, Cornus mas is beginning to flower. The tree is a mass of tiny yellow stars and viewed from a distance the flowering tree glows lime green. The subsequent fruits are small, but can be used to make a delicious jam. In autumn, the leaves will go a buttery yellow. The tree has all year round value, but is not grown as much as it deserves to be.
Early March and the silver maple, Acer saccharinum is in flower. The female flowers, which look like wiggling red fingers, appear in dense clusters long before the leaves. The male flowers appear on separate branches and tend to be greenish yellow in colour. The silver maple has elegant, palmate leaves. These are pale green on top and silver underneath, hence the name, and turn soft pinks and yellow in autumn. It is a large, fast growing tree so you need to look for this one in parks and public gardens.