Uh oh. We are experiencing a warming trend in the midst of winter. I know in my heart of hearts that we can expect more cold weather, but tell that to my plants. The Sambucus is starting to produce new green shoots at the tips, just where a cold snap will affect it the most. Crocus and grape Hyacinth have developed greens and early budding. My fruit trees are even beginning to swell. Freezes and young growth like this do not go hand in hand. Yet it is a sign that winter will soon be over and the verdant greenery of spring is on its way.
Waiting for the Last Frost of Spring
By February, I have to be physically held back from starting my veggie seeds. The antsy need to start growing is tempered by the knowledge that my seedlings will get leggy and suffer before it is time to put them in the ground. So the seeds are kept hidden from me, and I must content myself with rambles about the property to see what is recovering from winter’s cold embrace and portending the advent of the warm seasons.
A recent tramp around the gardens noted new strawberry leaves beginning to form. I even saw a few tiny beginnings of new green shoots on my asparagus crowns. If this warm trend continues, I will have to get out the mower and take a swipe at the new shoots in the grass. Such early budding and tender shoots is not really a good sign in February. It means protecting plants from freezes that will inevitably come at this time of the year. There are old sheets at the wait, cages around plants for covers, a heavy layer of bark mulch in all the beds, and a thick straw bed over perennial veggies and fruits.
First Sign of Spring
The first big sign of spring is the magnolia blossoms. The early budding in these is a joy to note but, if things go like they did last year, a potential disaster. Last year the plant was in full bud in February and bloomed in early March. But of course, the day after they began blooming we were hit with a hard freeze. The tree was in one day transported from pink glory to rusty, dry buds that died on the tree. While not an auspicious harbinger of spring it was, nonetheless, a nice sight for just that day, and no lasting damage was done to the tree. Not so with late winter freezes and young growth on other plants. I lost several perennials last year due to the late winter weather. The addition of more mulch should help those that survived that event to thrive through another this year.
Early budding and new growth buoys the heart and mind. It is a note to nature and all her glory that plants are instinctive, and hardy. Mother Nature doesn’t always have a good sense of timing, and her lesson is one of patience and endurance. We must all be adaptable to change, and the season’s challenges to our plants are a message of life and the frailty of existence. Let each day pass with gladness in your heart and a close watch of the weather forecast.