Ahh.. What a nice day! The warm sun beaming down! That fresh smell in the air. Truly a great…winter day? So maybe you’ve noticed what an unusual winter it has been this year. At least in the Northeast, we’ve been having an unseasonably warm winter. So I wonder, and I’ve heard the question asked, ” What will this do to the trees this Spring.”
That is a fair question. What will this enjoyable yet strangely warm winter do to the plants in our region? Well the short answer is, I guess we’ll see.
This has been an unusually mild winter with extended periods of warm temperatures with very little snow fall. This followed by a few days of snow and freezing cold temperatures and then back up into the 40’s again. What effect this all has will depend on what plants you have in your landscape and gardens, as well as on many other environmental factors.
We may see some flower bud die back on certain trees and woody shrubs for this coming Spring. Though the volume of blooms will be decreased by this die back, there should really be no long lasting impact to your woody plants as a result. Of coarse, for certain fruit tree and berry growers, this will be more of a concern, because of the resultant decreased harvest.
I any of your perennials and bulbs have peek out prematurely, you may expect to see the leaf edges brown up in the spring from being exposed to the colder days that are likely to come this February. But again, this will amount to very little in the overall health of your plants. Native species of plants and trees will likely fair better as they are locally adapted to the temperature extremes of each season in the Northeast.
Pay special attention to any evergreens in your landscape, especially those, potted in containers. Evergreen trees and shrubs continue to loose water from their leaves and may need to be watered occasionally. Especially sensitive species may benefit from an application of anti-desiccant, but again, local native plants are already well adapted and should fair just fine.
So again, we can expect to see fewer flowers this Spring from early bud swelling and the cold temperatures of February. We may also see some damage to the earliest emerging leave of some woody plants and perennials. Beyond this it seems unlikely that any long term damage will be done to your landscape plants.
One factor that is yet to be seen this spring is the Winter moth emergence. With no real stretch of freezing cold temperatures to kill off a portion of the population, it will be interesting to see the numbers of caterpillars that hatch out this coming spring.
Until then, enjoy the warm days and continue to enjoy your garden and we will see what comes of this in the long run.
It’s an encouraging post, this – at least, regarding trees and plants. With creatures – maybe another matter. Ladybirds and various larvae have continued to be out and about. I’m glad our newly arrived frosts (and snow in some parts of Britain) are killing off some of the ‘pests’ – at least it will limit their numbers – but feel sad about some other insects which may have been caught out by long warmth and sudden cold.
You don’t think there will be any long term effects on the plants? Are they using excess energy to accomodate the freezing and thawing? (“Let’s grow, oh wait a minute…let’s not. Oh, yes, let’s grow.” etc.) What about the lack of frozen ground – does that matter? Or lack of (snow) insulation? Isn’t their dormancy period affected? It may not be as long as usual or even needed? Don’t all of things have an overall affect on their susceptibility to future disease or insects, or even their overall lifespan? [These are all questions out of my own curiosity, not meant to demean your article.]
Tami, these are all great points! To clarify, I am thinking that IF we have a “normal” season followed by a “normal” winter next season, then the net effect on the plant life in the Northeast should be pretty minimal. The photosynthesis of one good growing season should be enough to make up for any set backs in stored energy. Plants produce way more carbohydrates than they need each year and that is why they are able to feed the rest of life on earth as well as they do. Though rare, it’s not like warm winters are an unprecedented event. Historically we have had warm winters in the Northeast before. That said however, it’s hard knowing if we are looking an overall change in the weather patterns for this region or not. It’s seems that most of us have this gut feeling that this could be the case but it hard to say for sure given just one season of unusual occurrences.
If these trends are to continue in the following years who is to say what the overall effect will be? Change for sure will come and who knows how the different climate zones will be effected?
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