Goodbye to the Perfect Spring: Garden Bloggers Bloom Day June 2011

– Posted in: Weather, What's up/blooming

If, in the middle of winter, you had told me my last frost this spring was going to occur on May 6th, I would have said, “Har-de-har-har” in my most sarcastic voice. But that is what happened. Furthermore, that lone frost of 29F (-1.7C) occurred after a string of frost-free weather stretching all the way back to April 23rd–just about two weeks. I can still hardly believe that we went through an entire spring with virtually no frost.

Did I dream it? The plants say no.

Poster child for the frost-free spring is Cynanchum ascyrifolium, a plant I purchased from the late, great Seneca Hill Perennials. I visited this nursery several years ago, and saw this plant in bloom. It bowled me over with its floriferous habit, so I ordered one in 2005. Here’s how it looked on May 19, 2009:

Cynanchum ascyrifolium. Forgot to cover it for the very first 28F frost in 2009 and look what happened..

Now keep in mind, this photo was taken 13 days after the date we had our last frost this year.

This is how that same plant looked on June 13, 2010:

Cynanchum ascyrifolium June 2010

Cynanchum ascyrifolium June 2010. Note the yellowing colchicum foliage.

Looks like it’s making a decent showing, yes? But now look at it a year later:
Cynanchum ascyrifolium June 2011

Cynanchum ascyrifolium June 2011. About twice the height of last year, overwhelming the colchicum foliage that was easily visible last year.

Now this plant looks like the one I saw in the nursery seven years ago!

Many other plants looked better than ever this year. After a two-year hiatus caused by untimely hard freezes, my bearded irises bloomed in force, some for the first time ever. The Oriental poppies were also spectacular. The daylily foliage has never looked so lush. And for the first time in several years, we have baby apples growing on our apple trees.

Incipient apples

No frost means apples form from apple blossoms

It was the perfect spring for the plants. The humans found it rather gloomy. The reason we had so little frost was because we had so much cloud cover, trapping the earth’s heat at night. We had record amounts of rain, delaying spring planting of peas and spinach by several weeks.

Truly, there is no such thing as a perfect season. What are advantages to some plants become disadvantages to others. But this almost frostless spring showed me how much our typical weather sets so many plants back. Now I know that what I thought was their normal growth pattern is really only the best they can do under adverse circumstances.

Maybe I was better off not knowing.

Inspired by the words of Elizabeth Lawrence, “We can have flowers nearly every month of the year,” Carol of May Dreams Gardens started Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. On the 15th of every month, garden bloggers from all over the world publish what is currently blooming in their gardens, and leave a link in Mr. Linky and the comments of May Dreams Gardens.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

In the end, this may be the most important thing about frost: Frost slows us down. In spring, it tempers our eagerness. In fall, it brings closure and rest. In our gotta-go world–where every nanosecond seems to count–slowness can be a great gift. So rather than see Jack Frost as an adversary, you could choose to greet him as a friend.

~Philip Harnden in A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons

Comments on this entry are closed.

Lee Reich July 6, 2011, 9:25 pm

Here on my farmden (more than a garden, less than a farm) in New York’s Hudson Valley, we also had a perfect spring, temperature-wise, at least. The usual last frost date in mid-May; this year it was mid-April. As usual, April was quite warm and dry. As usual, May was cool and wet. Apples, hardy kiwifruits, grapes, pawpaws, plums, gooseberries, currants, brambles, and, of course, persimmons and strawberries are all bearing abundantly.

Patrick's Garden July 1, 2011, 12:01 am

Everyone of us is entitled to a bad hair day but gardeners know how your whole season can be lost in the matter of one bad frigid night.

Marta June 28, 2011, 2:12 pm

Man, we must have gotten everybody’s frost up here in the Oregon high desert. I think we’ve had three frost-free nights as of June 28! Unusual, though. Wonder what will thrive this year.

Marie Iannotti June 24, 2011, 5:01 pm

You’re so right, “It was the perfect spring for the plants. The humans found it rather gloomy.” We had a lot – a lot – of rain and everything seemed to turn green over night. People complained, but then, we really can’t be pleased, can we? Pretty soon it will be too hot. Oh, well.

Your garden looks great!

Layanee June 23, 2011, 6:12 pm

We had a frost in mid-May but not heavy. I will have to keep better records next year. All looks very lush this year and large.

Carolyn @ Carolyn's Shade Gardens June 21, 2011, 8:03 pm

You make some really interesting points. Plants really did thrive on the snowy winter and long cool spring, and I loved it too. Interesting to see how plants perform under different conditions. I though ligularia was a shade plant until I saw a giant specimen thriving in full sun.

Alistair June 20, 2011, 12:56 pm

Kathy, Spring here in Aberdeen was relatively frost free and the temperatures in April were very often higher than they are now in June. Today 20th of June the Afternoon temp was 55f. Never mind everything in the garden like your own is looking great.

Leslie June 18, 2011, 11:54 am

One of the joys of gardening and also the problems…we are not totally in charge. Mother Nature has the last say 🙂

commonweeder June 17, 2011, 11:15 am

We did have a frost that nipped some annuals, but we have had an easy cool wet spring which is doing wonders for the trees we planted, and for the roses.

Helen at Toronto Gardens June 17, 2011, 8:38 am

All that cloud cover means that even my early start in the veggie plots hasn’t produced much result. Every year presents gardeners with a new challenge. Looks like your Cynanchum is one that finds challenges undaunting. Happy Blooms Day, Kathy!

Frances June 16, 2011, 6:22 am

I am so glad your damaged plant made such a full recovery, Kathy, good deal! Knowing is better, about plants anyway, IMHO.

Donna June 15, 2011, 11:11 pm

Many of my plants just N of you were set back by all the cool rain but we are catching up and the veg garden even has baby peppers and tomatoes…

Mr. McGregor's Daughter June 15, 2011, 10:34 pm

What a treat a frostless spring is. That is what we Northern gardeners plant & hope for, year after year. I’ve never heard of Cyanchum, I don’t recall you ever showing it before. It’s a cute little thing, setting off the rose and catmint (?) beautifully.

Kyle July 22, 2011, 11:42 am

Frostless Springs are definitely something of a treat, but even here in Pennsylvania they’re still quite hard to come by. In fact, I don’t recall the last frostless Spring we’ve had where I live. It always seems as thought there’s at least two or three different mornings where it’s chilly as all get out and the grass is covered in a fine dewy frost. Sure it may be a little rough for us gardeners but at least it has a sort of aesthetic appeal to it (well to me anyways, can’t comment for the rest of us). The best we can do is cross our fingers and hope for the best in the following Spring’s to come!

Carol June 15, 2011, 10:25 pm

That’s an amazing difference. Maybe you were better off not knowing how harsh your zone 4 garden really was. But then again, if you never knew…