Confused Gardening-Warm Weather in Winter

Early Bloomers are ….. Really Early!

Hellebores are blooming

Hellebores are blooming

Hellebores or Lenten Roses that normally bloom in March for me are in full bloom. Daphnes, Winter Jasmine, Mahonia, Camellias, Dandelions…… the list goes on. Yes, these are early bloomers normally, but not this early! I planted a dozen small hollies last spring and I noticed that they were putting on new growth still.

Warm winter weather is good for construction and landscapers but bad for ski slopes and snow plows. How about for gardeners?

Winter jasmine in full bloom covering a bank

Grass never stopped growing completely. It just slowed down and remains a pretty green carpet. The ground has not frozen yet. This has implications for overwintering insects. They will be more prevalent next season.

Insects and Other Critters

My cold frame vents in the rear when the temperature gets too high inside

My cold frame vents in the rear when the temperature gets too high inside

The usual suspects come out, like stinkbugs. But I have noticed slugs and other flying insects in my cold frame as well as outside in the unusually warm winter weather. Slugs normally hibernate under soil in the winter, but they are munching away at my lettuce!

Oh, and my bees are hopefully flying, looking for nectar. The few flowers out there don’t satisfy them, so I feed them sugar-water in place of nectar. The alternative is that they might starve…. Not a good thing.

Bees use up more energy flying around with nothing to eat and consume their stored honey faster. That means if and when we get really freezing weather, honey stores might be used up and not enough to sustain them until flowers are plentiful. Thus, my feeding regimen to stave off starvation so I won’t have the expense and work of starting new colonies.

Feeders dispensing sugar water at hive entrance for hungry bees

Feeders dispensing sugar-water at hive entrance for hungry bees

 

One of my honeybees trying to gather nectar from a partially opened Mahonia flower

One of my honeybees trying to gather nectar from a partially opened Mahonia flower

What Does This Mean For Spring?

The flowers that are blooming now will not bloom again until the following spring. This is a one time deal – spring flowering – so enjoy it when it happens, whenever it happens! Plants only form flower buds once a season. But I think you really won’t notice a big decrease in spring flowers as there are usually so many flowers blooming at once. For my hollies with the tender new growth, if we get some nasty freezes, the fresh growth will burn and turn brown.

Fresh new growth on evergreens tend to turn brown with sudden cold snaps

Fresh new growth on evergreens tend to turn brown with sudden cold snaps

Worst case scenario is that plants never go dormant and then a sudden hard freeze strikes. Water inside stems and leaves freezes, the cell walls explode and turns the plant to mush. Mop head hydrangeas could have all their buds turned to burnt crisps and won’t bloom.

Longwood Gardens has reported that their snowdrops and winter jasmine are blooming weeks ahead of schedule.

The annual cherry tree display in D.C. could be subdued if the cherry trees don’t receive at least 114 days of chilling. The problem is that warm weather causes buds to swell and if a hard freeze arrives, the buds will be toast.

Winter snows protects and insulates plants from frost heaving. This picture was taken in January 2015.

Winter snows protects and insulates plants from frost heaving. This picture was taken in January 2015.

The present warmth is primarily due to the impacts of El Nino, which is bringing milder-than-average weather to much of the nation. According to the Farmers Almanac, the second week of January is “red-flagged” to have exceptional cold and stormy winter weather. Boy, were they wrong! So, enjoy the weather while you can. We still have weeks of winter left.

Snowdrops in bloom

Snowdrops in bloom

About thegardendiaries

Claire Jones is a landscape and floral designer and owner of Claire Jones Landscapes, LLC. She designs and helps people to create their own personal outdoor oasis and loves to write about her gardening failures and successes.
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7 Responses to Confused Gardening-Warm Weather in Winter

  1. Julie Kemp says:

    I’m also in the mid-Atlantic and wondered just the other day as I noticed my day lilies coming up. Thanks for the clarification about so many favorites…come daylight, I’ll go check my hellebores and mahonia on the other side of the house that’s not so sunny. It will be a nice 60 degree day, but I want winter!!

    Like

  2. Carolyn Keenen says:

    Yes,,even out here in Tucson, AZ… Great dis functional ~~~~~

    🐝 well ~ CPK

    >

    Like

  3. I’m expecting another onslaught of stink bugs here next summer. I’m still finding them and we are not getting enough cold here either to slow them down. Last summer was a movie variety nightmare. Everything is out of wack.

    Like

  4. Anonymous says:

    Claire, should I put something out for the bees?

    Like

  5. Marie Rogers says:

    Here in Florida, we’re used to crazy winters, but I’ve never seen one like this. Where I live in North Florida, we haven’t had a frost yet and should have had one before Thanksgiving. Our plants and insects are confused, too.

    Like

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