Payback time?

Jim McKenney
Fri, 17 Feb 2006 09:35:50 PST
Payback time may be coming this weekend. At 7 A.M. this morning, the
temperature was almost 60 degrees F. By Sunday morning, the temperature may
be 15 degrees F; and daytime temperatures after that are not predicted to
rise out of the 30s until late next week. The garden is full of soft new
growth. Tree peony buds have opened enough to show the fringy tips of new
leaves - on one plant there are soft new growths over two inches long. Early
snowdrops and hellebores are in full bloom and while a week of raw weather
won't kill them, it will spoil the blooms for this year. 

This very mild winter has posed some riddles. Many of the plants which we
depend on for a mid-winter break in normal winters are very late this year.
For instance, in the garden established Crocus imperati de Jager came into
bloom only yesterday. Crocus laevigatus fontenayi will open today, and
Crocus ancyrensis just has buds up. In a normally cold year Crocus imperati
de Jager will bloom in January. Lonicera fragrantissima opened its first
flower only yesterday. Jasminum nudiflorum is now in full bloom - weeks
later than in some years. Mahonia bealei is only this week fragrant, as is
Sarcococca humilis.  Helleborus niger has had flower buds up above ground
for over a month, but the first flower has yet to actually open. Eranthis
hyemalis began to open in earnest only this week. And the first groups of
tommies are open. And I can see bud color on iris Lady Beatrix Stanley. 

It's a bit of a puzzle because a wide variety of newly acquired taxa in pots
wintered at the base of a sunny wall is blooming - these include numerous
crocus, colchicum, and iris. I keep looking for buds on the Tecophilaea -
nothing so far.  

There may be other consequences to the warmish winter: one Fritillaria
acompetala is up far enough for me to see that it has aborted its flower
buds. Have temperatures overall been too high to allow proper development of
the buds, or were these early risers literally nipped in the bud? I can see
seemingly normal buds on a nearby plant of Fritillaria raddeana (only two
inches out of the ground) and on one Fritillaria persica (again, right at
the surface).

It's no garden of Eden here: winds today will make outdoor work unpleasant
and yesterday gigantic deer browsed the yews, camellias and the entire clump
of Tulipa saxatilis and squashed a lot more. 

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, getting ready to hunker down
for a week.  By next week I figure I will be singing the blues; either
because I'll be able to see buds on the Tecophilaea or because I'll be
lamenting the loss of so many early risers.  

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