Cold-blasted star magnolia flower from the recent weather armageddon
As I’m fond of asking the dog when we go out on those very blustery cold mornings, “Who shut off the heat?!” What had been an unreasonably warm March spell ended with a bang last week, killing lots of early blooming flowering tree blossoms and dramatically ending the lovely warmth that so many of us were enjoying.
Some fomerly lovely, but now frost-bitten saucer magnolia flowers, at a distance and up close
What’s going on? Blame that silly little weather indicator that no one talks about, the NAO, or North Atlantic Oscillation (Heck, no wonder no one talks about it–it’s quite a mouth full!) For the real weather geeks, you can read more about it from NOAA here (pay no mind to the fact that the top of the page says La Crosse, WI; it’s a good discussion). For the rest of us, this is what the NAO is: it is a fluctuation in the strength of permanent high pressure and low pressure systems that are in place in Iceland and the Azores controlling the flow of westerly air, and thus the storm systems that reach North America. Now, wasn’t that simple (and if you had any idea how much I dumbed that down, you’d be appalled!)
For relevant purposes for gardeners, when the NAO goes negative, as it has been threatening to do over the last couple of weeks, it gets unseasonably cold in the Eastern half of the country. Everybody remember that “Seattle summer” as I called it in 2009 when the average high temperature in my region in June was 67 and it rained 23 out of 30 days? I don’t think I’ve dried out yet!
When the NAO goes positive, as it did much of this past winter, it is unreasonably mild. Nuff said.
The only blessing of the NAO going negative is that it will delay some of the spring allergy season that was ramping up to be quite a doozy. But it will come eventually so I’m not sure that that is any comfort to the allergy sufferers. They said that last season the pollen count in Altanta hit 9000. The previous record had been 6000. I have to wonder, if, after a certain point, you’re any more miserable. My spring allergies are very bad. But are they that much worse after 1000? I can’t tell much difference, honestly. Bad is just bad!
As for the unseasonable cold snap, in my part of the state, only the lovely magnolias seem to have been affected–and most likely the hydrangeas that bloom on old wood, although it’s too early to know that yet. The daffodils and hyacinths are still blooming as well as before the sub-freezing temperatures, as are most of the other bulbs that would have been hardier anyway.
Even the flowering cherries and the purple leafed plums–the ornamental fruit trees–seem unscathed. Those growing edible fruits will have to see how badly their crops have been affected.
As for anyone who put in anything tender–all I can say is that I hope it was in pots that could be brought in, or I hope you covered. Nature is really fickle in spring and fall.