January 7, 2007

Vernalization Cut Backs?

In an effort to reduce the dependancy on foreign oil, Mother Nature today announced cutbacks on her vernalization programs. All vernalized shrubs and trees must cut back by at least 35% of thier vernalization plan, and all ephemerals by 40%. Experts agree that risks may be had with an unstable Canadian Air Mass, but regardless, we can expect an early delivery of goods with a resulting downswing of production in the coming months of spring. Ugh. And I love winter. Colorado, here I come.

A honey bee visits the winter blooming Narcissus romieuxii

Today the honey bees are busy, flying from flower to flower enjoying the bright sunshine and the warm 70 degree F temps, as fly from blossom to bush gathering pollen before the sun sets. The only problem is that it is the first week of Janualry, and this is New England. Typically, today should be so fridgid, that the pipe would freeze two feeet under ground, and the snow would be three feet deep. The expert climatologists say that this isn't global warming, and maybe it is just an effect of El Nino, but I am starting to consider otherwise.

The process that biologists call Vernalization, relates to plants that need exposure to the long cold of winter, to initiate teh floering process. Plants that are naturally 'wired' to be early emergers, like crocus, and snowdrops and witch hazels (Hamamellis) are reposponding to this incredible unseasonally warm winter, that we are experiencing here in the north east of America. El Nino or not, we are still breaking records, and with the spring peepers out at the New England Wild Flower Society's Garden In The Woods, and tad poles seen swimming in the woods behond my house, one in touch with the natural world as many of us are, can easily become iritate with the oblivious nieghbors who are hootin and hollering with summer pride with thier shirts off an ourdoor grill of watching the game. Sure, it feels nice, but helecopter up man, and see the big picture here! Somethin just aint right.

With all of the buzz on the chatter on the internet platn groups about what's in bloom now, I might as well chime in, since here in New England, we are having record warmth. today we broke a record for the highest temperature ever recorded on this date. It reached 71 deegrees F. Checking last years temperature on this date, I noted a high or 7 degrees. Typically, these first few weeks of January are when we experience our most severe winter weather, with below zero F. often a high, and frost that reaches nearly two feet into the ground.

This year, I have helebores in bloom, and the ground is still thawed. It is more like a winter in Seattle, than Boston. Quite frightening, actually. Although I did wear shorts yesterday, and had an extra bounce in my step, I could't help but notice the motorcycles out for a ride, and the open windows in the houses on my road.

A Hellebore emerges from the unfrozen January soil outside, ready to bloom at least two or three months ahead of schedule. Unfortunately, we gardeners know that this warm and wet winter, will ultimately result in many fatalities in the garden, since the odds are also in our favor that the arctic cold will eventually arrive, catching these early-emergers unprepared. Doom is likely for all who risked jumping the gun.

The fragrant shrub Daphne mezerium alba sacrafices a few blossoms typically early, sometimes even in the autumn, so it can respond quickly to these warm spells. Around the garden the Hamamellis are just starting to unfurl thier buds, the golden ribbons are extending, and even though these are indeed early bloomers, they are still one month early, since our witchhazels typically bloom the second week of January, when treated to a mild winter.

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