Oh What A Season! (Spring 2012, That Is!)

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Oh What A Season! (Spring 2012, That Is!)

Categories: Blog, Garden Guru, Newsworthy

Little did we know that the cold morning (24F) of March 6 would be the last freeze of winter and that day would begin the 2012 growing season.   Winter’s coldest low of +6F at our cold spot (+10F around the Visitor Center terraces) would mean our winter was more like the Red River Valley between Texas and Oklahoma!  Redbuds, our harbinger native tree of real spring, would bloom three to four weeks earlier than normal, too.  For the last frost to be almost six weeks earlier than normal is unprecedented. The winter low was the second mildest, though the overall average winter temperature was the mildest ever.  A mere 3 inches of snow was a record low amount too.

Redbuds in full flower lined the walks to the Visitor Center in March rather than April this year.

Gardeners were worried we’d have another “Easter Freeze” like in 2007 and we didn’t.  The spring flowers and the springtime weather have been absolutely beautiful and one to remember.  This anomaly is so off the charts we can’t use it for any record keeping of bloom time or dates of when to plant or when to hold events–we will still use overall statistics!

Catalpas (Catalpa speciosa shown), a flower of June, began to bloom the last week of April!

So what does all this mean for gardeners?  My words are from long-time area gardener Jane Overisch: enjoy every day of it!  Literally it will mean our first crop of spring figs fresh from the garden (the figs didn’t die back to the ground this year for the first time ever).  Crape Myrtles will bloom extra early and reach tree size and of course many of our fall annuals lived through the winter and bloomed up a storm of beautiful colors: pansies, snapdragons, cabbages, kale and even lettuce survived the winter.

A tour for our Society of Perennial Partners ended at the Perennial Garden Arbor to enjoy the unprecedented full bloom of the wisterias.

On the nature side of things the early emergence and flowering of plants corresponded with the earliest dates of observing most species of butterflies, moths and other insects.  Plants and insects emerge based on the temperature.  Oddly enough all our summertime birds that spend the winter in the tropics didn’t get the message and migrated back as they always do, based on day length.  Violent weather to the south held them up and they actually were late.  The thousands of missing migrant birds meant the insects had a field day as they are normally fuel for the countless migrating birds. When the birds finally got here they were well fed with more insects than ever and hardly visited bird feeders at all.  No orioles at my grape jelly and oranges for the first time ever.

I photographed this Queen (tropical relative of the Monarch butterfly) nectaring on a Purple Milkweed on the Byron Shutz Nature Trail on Sunday.  This is only the FOURTH record of this butterfly in Missouri EVER.  We expect to see more tropical vagrant butterflies this long season following a mild winter.

So will the summer season be full of pests?  Nature has checks and balances and I know it will all even out in the end.  The lack of rain is now starting to grind on us gardeners and beginning to stress plants as well.  The USDA has predicted average rainfall and temperatures for the summer with growing drought to our north and southwest but I haven’t seen any recent updates and hope their predictions will still come true.  Gardeners are the ultimate optimists!

The greenhouses are filled with plants for the coming season: here a peek at the containers put together for the Under A Blue Moon Rare Plant Auction fund raiser coming up next month.

The apple, pear and peach crops look great–cherries for some reason are not fruitful (they bloomed beautifully at least).  Strawberry season was a month early and already over while the blueberries are ripe NOW!  Daylilies are beginning to bloom and we hope they still will be at Booms and Blooms on June 30.  Some gardeners have picked their first ripe tomatoes though we waited to plant ours outside.

The already ripe Red Currants hang like jewels from their shrubs in the Heartland Harvest Garden.

The Fairy Houses and Forts display at Powell Gardens is up and delighting children and visitors of all ages as they walk through the gardens and have an enchanting adventure.  Mother Nature has helped create a stage for us gardeners for a spectacular season.  Don’t miss out on the unprecedented beauty, bounty and spectacular weather in the gardens of 2012.

A view of Star Tetrahedron in the Powell Gardens twilight during the Friday evening opening of the Fairy Houses and Forts an Enchanting Adventure at Powell Gardens.