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Confusing Weather

Tulip Tree “Jane” after 24 degree night

2019 started with a BANG…January having a few record setting days below freezing; and, then along came February bringing us lots of rain and record setting warm days. It is confusing to say the least. But take a look around because we are not alone…perennials, shrubs, trees that should still be asleep are wide awake; and, birds, pollinators, and butterflies are out and about doing their ‘spring fling thing’! Don’t be fooled for as the saying goes ‘Janiveer in March I fear’. In the UK that means spring is around the corner and, as is usual here at our home, this time of year is madly changeable!

Nature reacts not only to the length of daylight but to temperatures, too…birds are mating and building nest and mourning cloak, gulf fritillary, sulfur butterflies, and others have been spotted throughout our gardens. And I even found a female praying mantis on my Knockout Rose and aphids on a friend’s sprouting daylily…yes, madly confusing!

The National Weather Service (NWS) says that this is partly due to our El Nino type weather we are having. So, maybe we will get lucky and March will continue to give us warmer days. On the other hand, it may set in with renewed severity. And as I write this article, they are predicting temperatures as low as 24 degrees next week. So winter is not over! Nature’s response to this crazy weather makes for good conversations but there are consequences to our spring-like weather. My Tulip Tree ´Jane’ and white irises have been blooming since February, but I know not for long! Sometimes, there is merit to weather folklore…if the early months are not cold, we shall suffer for it afterwards. Indeed, our forefathers had an abundance of odd sayings on the subject of weather and some proverbs for every month in the year. March comes in like a lion, goes out like a lamb…let us hope it does! And if the grass grows in `Janiveer’, it grows the worse for all the year. No worries there for my grass is mostly weeds!

Any buds that open now most likely won’t survive the winter. We already know that it only takes ONE very cold night to damage plants. Big leaf hydrangeas will be in trouble both leaves and buds. It can also mean that we won’t have as big a show of flowers from perennials and shrubs in spring. Since there is nothing we can do about it, we might as well enjoy our ‘little show’ now. With this weather being out of sync, there is also danger to fruit and nut trees, whole or partial crops could be lost for this year. So, whether you believe in global warming or that our climate has been changing since the beginning of time, it is still frustrating to a gardener!

White Irises and Azalea in February

El Nino has a lot to do with unpredictable weather. And even though this year has not officially been designated as an El Nino (little boy in Spanish) it has all the makings of one or so they say. It is a normal climate pattern that develops every 3 to 7 years and can cause unusual weather patterns around the globe. In general, it causes higher rainfall in parts of North and South American and drought in Western Pacific Nations such as Australia and Indonesia.

La Nina (little girl in Spanish) occurs when the trade winds blow unusually hard and the sea temperatures become colder than normal. This event can last from 1 to 3 years. It is considered to be the counterpart of El Nino that normally last no more than 1 year. Both are patterns of rainfall, atmosphere pressure, and large-scale movement of air with La Nina usually meaning more rainfall in the Pacific Northwest, brief periods of below average temperatures in the Northeast and generally dry, mild conditions for the Southern states.

And yes, the weather IS very confusing to both us and nature. Just beware of the ‘Ides of March’ and as tempting as it may be don’t get the fertilizer out yet! As gardeners, so what if it is confusing and frustrating for in the end, nature always wins, birds sing, butterflies will fly, flowers bloom and next year will be another year of conversations!♦

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