Pros and Cons of Early Blooms

At Schoepfle Garden I am counting no less than 7 trees and flowers in bloom during the last week of February.  That is uncommon, most years I would expect to have three to four blooms in February – winter aconite, snowdrops, hardy cyclamen and maybe one more.  Lenten Rose is now blooming along with the Japanese Witch Hazel and by day’s end I may be able to add three more shrubs into the mix as the buds were cracking open this morning.  Is this cause for concern?  On the plus side, we have an excellent chance to break out of our cabin fever, get outside and see some signs of spring – something to really energize us. There are bees and other active insects ready to feed on these early blooms after a long winter’s retreat and they in turn provide food for birds and animals.   On the down side, the may be some losses when, probably not if, we return to typical weather.  Luckily, most of the damage is short term.  Flowers may be lost, some very early, tender new growth may be stunted, but in the long run most plants will not suffer long term damage.  It can be a problem for those dependent on the plants for food or income.  Loss of flowers can mean a reduction in fruit and nuts that feed wildlife in the next fall and winter.  It can also mean a loss of fruit like peaches, apples and cherries if the plants blossom too early.  Even our pancakes could suffer as maple syrup production may be cut short as trees bud out and halting sap collection. So in those cases we need to be ready to help out wildlife that may not have as much for winter stores or support the local orchard that is struggling to offer the best produce due to winter losses.  It is too early to tie the last few years into a larger climatic change, but we should be aware of possible short term and long term issues that may arise from too much warmth too soon in the season.  -MK

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