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As winter's icy blasts throttle much of the country, it's comforting to think that spring flowers soon will bloom. The horticulturists, gardeners and research scientists at the Agriculture Department's National Arboretum are on top of this issue. They have helpfully posted the average blooming dates of flowers and plants in their large collection on the Web at www.usna.usda.gov.

Some plants generate year-round interest, such as the Gotelli Collection of Dwarf and Slow-Growing Conifers. But the action heats up in the second week of March when early bulbs appear. By the first week of April, daffodil, crocus, Korean azalea, forsythia and cornelian cherry flowers bloom. At the end of May, look for magnolias, crab apples, azaleas, early rhododendrons, daffodils and Japanese quince. The Web site also provides information about bird watching tours of the arboretum.

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