We’re only two days into the official spring season, and already in my garden the crocus, early daffodils and hyacinths are in bloom, the Star Magnolia in full flower, and the Ogon spireas are beginning to leaf out, along with many of the roses. To say this is extraordinary is an understatement. We had an essentially snowless winter (though we did get just enough for me to fall down several weeks ago on the ice and shatter my right wrist) and now temperatures have stayed consistently well above freezing each night, with days in the 60s and 70s – more like May than March.
So what happens now?
Well, that depends on Mother Nature. The best result would be that we go back to our normal pattern of cool, wet weather. We could even handle a few nights in the 20s. Things are not so far advanced that there would be much, if any damage.
Conversely, the mild pattern could continue, and we’d float from a very warm spring into an (even warmer?) summer. That means the garden will be looking pretty tired and ratty by September, except for the annuals, but still a decent second best.
The worst case scenario is that this warm weather continues for several weeks, encouraging the trees and shrubs to leaf out, and the perennials to emerge from the ground. Then, toss in several days of really cold weather: highs in the 30s, lows in the twenties, and god forbid, a bit of snow. Trees down, power lines snapped, millions (again) without power, entire crops like apples, should they be in bloom, wiped out. Permanent hardy plantings won’t die if their emerging leaves are frosted; there’s generally enough reserve energy in the roots to produce another set. But the resultant foliage will be diminished, and the plant weakened. Anything non-hardy will of course be killed outright.
So here’s my advice: follow your normal planting schedule, and for heaven’s sake, don’t rush tender annuals into the ground before their normal frost free date, whatever the weather at the moment. While you can’t control what happens to permanent plantings in the macro-world, in the micro-world you can at least save yourself the agony and expense of replacing all your tender material after a hard frost – something not unusual in this part of the world well into May.
Oh, and did I mention?