Warm Winter Brings Early Spring

By Susan Albert | January 21, 2023
Image by Dzurag
by Susan Albert
January 21, 2023

The warmest winter I recall only produced a smattering of snow. Temperatures remained above 40 degrees F. (4 C.) most of the season. The above-average temperatures brought advantages as well as disadvantages to my garden.

Winter Gardening

During a usual winter, I enjoy stepping back from the garden, relinquishing the daily watering of the many container plants. Below freezing weather occurs frequently, offset by evenings spent near a crackling fire. I look forward to the arrival of gardening catalogs and contemplating what new plants I’d like to buy. With warm winter temperatures, I found myself out doing more watering than usual. (Truth be told, I rarely water at all during cold winter temperatures.)

Some plants need a sustained cold period, called chill hours, to break dormancy, flower and produce fruit, such as fruit trees and some bulbs. My tulips still bloomed even though they don’t like warm winters.

One advantage of a mild winter is that tulips and daffodils bloom early. I am always impatient during the winter, looking for that first indication that spring is on its way. With a typical cold winter, spring daffodils don’t arrive before March. But a warm winter can see daffodils blooming in February! Seeing those beautiful yellow, white, and copper trumpets heralding the coming of spring, always gets me excited for a new season and anxious for the next wave of blooms, which would be tulips, then my many irises.

Growing Perennials Get Nipped by Freeze

One of the disadvantages I recall occurred when mild temperatures woke up the perennials early. New, green growth rose from the once sleeping perennials. Unfortunately, the early spring also brought the chance of a “late” freeze. And it did. The tender foliage on my perennials died back. Fortunately, when the temperatures warmed up, new foliage once again grew from the crowns.

Another detriment of a mild winter is the proliferation of ticks. The lack of really hard freezes allowed the tick population to ramp up ahead of time. This could have proved dangerous with higher numbers of ticks infecting more people with diseases such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

The early spring gradually moved into an early summer and rising temperatures. The succession of perennials continued, albeit a little earlier. All in all, the warm winter had its gives and takes, but really the only thing I missed was a substantial snow or two.

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