Spring Out of Sync

Following our long, cold winter, we seem to be having a cold spring as well. Temperatures lately are mostly in the 40s and 50s (F), well below normal. This means delayed blooming and leafing out, particularly for woody plants. In 2013 we had another cool spring, but many shrubs seem to  be running about two weeks behind where they were last year.

Spicebush blooms on May 4th. The fuzzy flowers are subtle, but I really like them.
Spicebush blooms on May 4th. The fuzzy flowers are subtle, but I really like them.

For example, my spicebush (Lindera benzoin) just started blooming a couple of days into May. Last year they began blooming by mid-April, and the flowers had all dropped by the end of the month.

Serviceberry still not blooming in early May.
Serviceberry still not blooming in early May.

And my serviceberry (Amelanchier x grandiflora) blooms still haven’t opened. Last year they were in flower by the end of April.

A lonely forsythia bloom.
A lonely forsythia bloom.

Plus, it looks like we won’t be getting any forsythia flowers to speak of this spring. No, I didn’t prune them too late. But it looks like the buds had started to open, only to be zapped by a sudden freeze.

A cool spring has its pros and cons. On the one hand, I don’t plan to put any really tender plants or seeds (tomatoes, morning glories, etc.) in the ground before June 1, if then. They will simply rot (or, at best, sulk) in the cold ground. Better to give the soil time to warm up.

Hellebores in May?
Hellebores in May?

On the other hand, early annuals will probably last far longer into the season. And perennial flowers won’t be so quick fade, either. The cool weather is also good for new transplants.

For myself, I am trying to focus on the positive. I can live with a cool spring as long as winter is truly gone.

Does a cool spring bother you much?

44 Comments on “Spring Out of Sync

  1. Yes it bothers me a tad….mainly because by the time everything gets rocking our season is just so short. It just all feels like a mad rush by the time things are all ready to go in! Can you tell I’m a bit stressed…I have so much to do! Lovely shots and let’s hope things get moving!!!

  2. You’re too young to remember, but forsythia seldom bloomed, except under the snow line, in zone 5 , until the 80’s. While vegetatively hardy here, the flower buds (made the summer before) are not hardy much below 0. Winters for the past 20 years have not been as cold as they used to be and the forsythia has been profuse until this year when we. once again. had an old-fashioned winter.

    • It is rare these days than anyone starts a comment directed at me with “you’re too young …”. Didn’t know that about forsythia in Chicago.

  3. Too often our cool springs in St Louis turn the corner very quickly to summer. We have had an erratic spring this year, with a slow start and cool. However we have been near 90 for the last two days and I don’t like the idea of turning on the air this early. Things are in full bloom here. In fact the azaleas, dogwoods and refunds are nearly finished and the trees are quickly leafing out.

    • Wow, I am surprised the weather has been so radically different there when you are not really that far away. I think I would probably prefer what we have to 90 degree heat.

      • I used to live in Palatine, IL and came back to STL frequently to see my family and was always amazed at the difference those few hundred miles make in the seasons. I just love the Chicago-area (not so much the winters) and the summers there are delightful, void of the humidity we get down here. Laying in a river valley surrounded by two rivers doesn’t help…in the humidity or the allergens.

  4. I’m not liking this cold spring. The perennials look really healthy, but I feel as though we’re going to just jump suddenly to hot! Thats not good for the plants. Im 2+ weeks behind. My forsythia looked terrible this year too.

  5. Can’t say much about cool weather since it was in the 90s a few times this week but I have noticed things being out of sync. My miniature daffodils, for example, never bloomed this year but a hosta came up earlier than expected. I would have predicted the opposite from the nice cool winter weather.

  6. Amen to winter being gone. 🙂 I’m losing patience with the cool weather because I really want to get some containers planted up and enjoy some color. I did put some lettuce in a raised bed with a row cover on top and it seems to be doing okay.

    • You don’t want to try some cool weather annuals for your containers – pansies, lobelia, sweet alyssum, stock?

  7. I think after such a brutally cold and long winter it does bother me a bit more than it should. Many of my shrubs are just breaking dormancy and some trees I fear are gone and will need to be replaced after this winter. Hoping for the best though as the warm weather is to start later this week.

  8. I agree that a cool spring isn’t a bad thing – as long as it doesn’t suddenly turn to blazing heat at the end of May. I prefer mild temperatures any time of year. It also means the rush to do everything is spaced out a bit over a longer period!

    • I like a mild summer but normally a cool spring does not mean that summer won’t be miserable with heat, humidity, and mosquitos.

  9. It certainly is out of sync, as you say. Every garden blog I read mentions it. I wonder if it will get warm and a lot of things will bloom at once!

  10. So glad you posted this, I was feeling my usual guilt at not having planted yet. This spring is the exact opposite of last spring, which was too warm too soon. There was an op-ed in Sunday’s NY Times about gardening for climate change, did you happen to see it?

  11. On the positive side, a cool spring does help with pacing things. Trickier if you are a fruit and veg grower. Obviously its not best for your sense of “lets get this going” after such a long exceptionally cold winter. We had it here last year and the opposite this year, hopefully temperatures will come back to normal soon.

    • I have to be on the road for most of the remainder of May so I wouldn’t mind if things stayed slow until the end of the month.

  12. I am thinking we are as much as a month behind here. The weather continues to be on the cool side especially at night. I am trying to be positive too. At least there aren’t any mosquitoes!

  13. Our spring has been cooler too and I’ve enjoyed the slower pace, the lingering is fine. Unfortunately, tomorrow and Friday will be close to 90F.

  14. The weather is becoming so unpredictable worldwide isn’t it? Gone are the days when we could all predict the seasons and get planting….our spring is on time this year but was horribly late last year leaving me feeling rather cheated.xxx

  15. We had the long winter last year Jason and know exactly how you feel. Providing winter is gone, it’s easier to bear!
    I’ve not been around much lately. I do hope you have recovered or are recovering from your surgery. I must look back at your posts as you probably posted about it.

  16. A cool spring doesn’t bother me. it makes yard work a little more pleasant. I don’t mind a cool summer either if “cool” means nothing below 70 degree. I say that because our local weather man said we were in for a “cooler and drier” summer. Cooler and drier than what he didn’t say.

    • I’d rather have cool than dry. I hate droughts. Normally I don’t water at all, except for containers, but I have to make exception for droughts and I hate the time it takes.

  17. A long cool spring doesn’t bother me at all, because every spring here in the PNW is a long, cool one. Still, your plants are definitely far behind ours.

  18. We often have a cool spring because of the ice coming our way from the Great Lakes, so no it is not a bother. Plants are usually late in our area anyway. Hummingbirds are here though. Today I saw them at a nursery. They were in the greenhouses nectaring on the annuals.

    • I have not seen any hummingbirds here yet. Yesterday I did see the first orioles and indigo buntings of the year, though.

  19. Well, to be honest it seems like we’re back to a semblence of “normal” here in Madison. Warm weather is moving in and everything is blooming all at once. I agree with you about the positives of the cool spring, though–the blooms last a lot longer. Congrats on the Hellebore bloom. Be careful–Hellebores are addictive!

  20. Oh, Jason we have the same weather! Yes, it bothers me. I have my tomatoes seedling in my greenhouse and am worrying about them because of very cold nights. Your photo of Serviceberry is pretty, love it!

  21. A cool spring doesn’t bother me because it’s so good for transplants. But when I need to get my annuals out from under the grow lights, I’m always eager for it to warm up. We’re having a blast of summer with temps in the upper 80’s right now and my zinnias are spending their first night outside.

    • We had a hot summer blast yesterday – 88 degrees! The plants were in mild shock, drooping with their tongues out. 74 today, then it’s supposed to be back to the 50s by next weekend. Very strange.

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