by Marjorie Rachlin
Blossoms in the snow. That’s been the story for the last month – some intrepid early bloomers greeting temperatures that at times reach 61 degrees in the afternoon, then a cold 15 degrees that night. Or worse.
The yellow aconite in the photo above has been blooming since the middle of February, along with the early lavender crocus.
When the temperature goes above 50 degrees, a few hardy honey bees come out of dormancy. And the witch hazel on the corner of Linnean and Davenport has been sporting tiny yellow blossoms for several weeks.
This see-saw winter harms some plants. Bitter cold often kills my rosemary plants. And in the garden beds, the ground has frozen and heaved. That’s hard on newly-planted perennials and shrubs – it’s a good idea to go out now and firm the soil down so their roots are well covered with dirt.
Last year, the maples were a red haze of bloom by late February, and the elm blossoms were green. Now they are just starting to flower. It’s silent across the street in my neighbor’s pond – no spring peepers yet, although some years they are already mating by the first week in March.
One year, Forest Hills daffodils were in bloom by March 1st – now all I have are leafy clumps five inches high. And I’ve put off pruning the clematis and butterfly bush because they aren’t sprouting yet.
The good news is that the days are longer, because the sun and the planets ignore the weather. On March 7th (before the time change) the sun was rising at 6:32 a.m. and setting at 6:07 p.m., giving us two more hours of daylight than on Jan 1st. By the end of March, with Daylight Saving Time, we can expect sunrise at just before 7 a.m. and sunset at 7:30 p.m.
The Birds Sing On
The cardinals are not discouraged. They are singing more lustily and sounding more committed than they did in January, when there were only a few tentative cheer, cheers. I’ve even seen one male prospecting in the bushes for a nest site.
The tufted titmice too are thinking spring, whistling their strident call, “Peter, Peter.” The blue jays have started making a lot of racket. On warm days a little burble from the tree tops tells you that the house finches are singing.
None of these birds is about to nest. Songbirds in our area will wait for it to warm up and bring out the insects, so they will have food for their young ones. Over the years, the bird experts in our area have developed a rough chart that estimates the “first egg-laying date” for different species. For example, it’s March 30th for mockingbirds, April 8th for cardinals and bluejays, and April 14th for the titmouse.
Don’t Give Up Hope
If we are lucky – no more snow storms, a burst of warmer weather – spring will rush in overnight. Send us a picture of your first blooming daffodil!