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Way to go, bud

Poppies have been done in by pop-up blockers. But wait! All is not lost.

March 25, 2007|Mary E. Forgione

ASK Cecilia Rejas about poppy blooms this year, and she gets all Lemony Snicket on you.

"It was a series of unfortunate events," the California state park ranger said, sighing.

She's talking, of course, about the missing carpet of orange that usually appears on the hills this time of year at the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve.

First it was a lack of decent rainfall in late fall and early winter. Then those seeds that managed to germinate were wiped out by the cold snaps in January and February. Despite the poppy no-shows, the reserve's visitor center opens Saturday and remains open until the end of April.

Info: (661) 724-1180; www.parks.ca.gov/page_id627.

In local deserts, from Joshua Tree to Death Valley, reports of lackluster wildflowers are pretty much the same. To shake off all this bloom and doom, Rejas recommends checking out Joshua trees: They're flowering now and will last through April, particularly those at Arthur B. Ripley Desert Woodland State Park, a small roadside park (just park on the shoulder of the road) five miles west of the poppy reserve.

Info: Mojave Desert Information Center, (661) 942-0662; www.parks.ca.gov/page_id634.

If you're willing to go a bit farther afield, there's still hope for more fortunate displays of species listed below.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

BLOOM/LOCATION

Pacific or mountain dogwood

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Yosemite National Park

(209) 372-0200 www.nps.gov/yose/

COOL FACTOR

Ansel Adams made this creamy white blossom famous in black and white in a 1938 image he snapped while trekking in the Sierra with Edward Weston (special edition copy at the Ansel Adams Gallery in the park, $175). Shrubs bloom from May to mid-June.

INSIDER TIP

Beware: The true natives are the white blossoms. There are a few nonnative pink dogwood shrubs, mainly in Ahwahnee Meadow near Curry Village.

TAKE YOUR BEST SHOT HERE

Along the Merced River and in Yosemite Valley; stick to elevations between 4,000 feet and 5,500 feet. Other locations: Big Oak Flat Road toward Crane Flat; in the Tuolumne, Merced and Mariposa giant sequoia groves.

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BLOOM/LOCATION

Azaleas and rhododendrons

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Redwood National and State Parks

(707) 464-6101

www.nps.gov/redw/

COOL FACTOR

Native rhododendrons (pink) and azaleas (white) shine like spotlights against dark redwood trunks. It's hard to predict, but May is good for rhododendrons; June and July for azaleas.

INSIDER TIP

Both shrubs range from the California-Oregon border to San Francisco. Closer to home, you can see azaleas bloom at Big Basin State Park, 25 miles northwest of Santa Cruz, Calif.; (831) 338-8860, www.parks.ca.gov/page_id540

TAKE YOUR BEST SHOT HERE

In redwood areas, along California 199, which hugs the Smith River corridor (look for trail heads along this roadway). Particularly flower-worthy hikes: Rhododendron Trail, Damnation Creek trail head.

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BLOOM/LOCATION

Texas bluebonnets

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Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

in Austin and Texas hill country

(512) 292-4100

www.wildflower.org

COOL FACTOR

Just about everywhere else, these flowers are called lupine (different varieties bloom in California). The bluebonnets are weather resistant, and good showings are expected this year. Blooms now through the month of April.

INSIDER TIP

Though these blooms are deep blue and contrast nicely when bright red Indian paintbrush pops up, look for a variety of pure white ones that sometimes appear.

TAKE YOUR BEST SHOT HERE

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has fields of them. The more outdoorsy crowd should head for Texas hill country: the towns of Burnet (which considers itself the bluebonnet capital), Marble Falls and Fredericksburg.

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BLOOM/LOCATION

Cherry blossoms

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Washington, D.C.

(202) 547-1500

www.nationalcherryblossom-festival.org.

www.nps.gov/cherry

Vancouver, Canada

(604) 767 9044

www.vancouvercherryblossom-festival.com

COOL FACTOR

Giddiness breaks out inside the Beltway around cherry season. The 3,700 trees of various varieties (mostly Yoshino and Kwanzan) were a gift from Japan in 1912. Bloom time's expected between April 1 and 7, peaking April 4. Vancouver tops that with 37,000 (mostly Kwanzan) trees. Best bloom times: this week through mid-April.

INSIDER TIP

Washington's festival runs from Saturday to April 15 and includes fireworks (April 7), a parade (April 14) and "cherry walks" led by the National Park Service. Vancouver hosts its second festival through April 22, with docent-led blossom- hunting Trolley Tours ($23 per person) around the city.

TAKE YOUR BEST SHOT HERE

Iconic snaps can be had at the Washington Monument grounds, the Tidal Basin around the Jefferson Monument and East Potomac Park. The NPS website has a good map of where the trees are. In Vancouver, visit the festival's website for a neighborhood-by-neighborhood breakdown of where to find the pink stuff.

Mary E. Forgione

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