Monday, March 24, 2008

Our Cold Snap

Yesterday it was just over 60 degrees outside - and it was sunny. Last night the temperature dipped to 30 -- there was a heavy frost on the ground this morning.

And today, our high temperature has remained in the upper 30's and it has been cloudy all day. We have been having SNOW FLURRIES off and on all day. And tonight it is supposed to dip down in the high 20's and low 30's. YIKES !!

The children asked .... WHAT HAPPENED TO SPRING ?? (this is an annual conversation - they tell me that they enjoy hearing me tell the "story" over and over again, year after year.)


Folklore of the eastern United States tells gardeners not to plant until after the dogwood trees have bloomed because of this cold snap.

The Dogwood Winter generally arrives following an extended mid-spring warm spell and brings several days of cold, cloudy, disagreeable weather, often accompanied by frost and perhaps a flurry or two of snow. It usually occurs (here) during late-March and coincides with the blooming of dogwood trees, from which it derives its popular name.

The Dogwood Winter appears to be one of several weather "singularities" -- one time events common to North America, such as Indian Summer and January Thaw. It is commonly described as: "It's spring, then suddenly winter returns."

The American, or Flowering, Dogwood ranges from Texas to Minnesota eastward to the Atlantic shoreline from Florida to southern New England. And this beautiful small tree is native to Tennessee. It is often as wide as it is tall, and it favors the well-drained but moist, fertile sites of mixed hardwood forests and pine forest edges. At our old house there were many Dogwoods growing -- we always looked forward to seeing them bloom. At this new house however, there are none to be seen -- so we will have to add some this fall. We can see them as we travel around our area visiting, going to soccer, and running errands. They are BEAUTIFUL !!

We found it interesting that many gardeners believe that the safest time to plant cold-sensitive species, such as tomatoes, comes in the returning warm weather following Dogwood Winter. Native Americans also watched for dogwood blossoms as signs to begin planting crops. We begin planting hardy plants now, but we wait a few more weeks to put in the "tender" plants like tomatoes and seeds. We wait until the Blackberry Winter comes (and goes).

The dogwood's beauty and utility have long been celebrated in North America. Early colonists reportedly used every part of the dogwood except "the rustle of its leaves." Firewood, furniture, garden elements such a trellis', and more were the common uses.

After this cold snap, we will enjoy a gradual return to spring-like weather. Then, in a few weeks (usually 2, but it varies) we will have one more cold snap (although not quite as cold as this one) -- that will be the Blackberry Winter.

After that ... Spring will be here to stay ... followed shortly by Summer.

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