|A doomed magnolia blossom|
Only a perverse gardener, I guess, could be appalled at the weather guy's prediction of yet another March day of record-breaking warmth. But I'm dreading it.
In Chicago, as in most of the East and Midwest, it's more like July than March, with a five-day string of record temperatures in the 80s. Monday's dip down to 78 was a brief respite; it's supposed to be back up toward 83 Tuesday. All over my neighborhood today I saw shorts and flip-flops and sappy grins and flowers.
So why am I so distressed? What's not to like about magnolias, forsythias, daffodils, scilla, weeping cherries, redbuds, even crab apples bursting into bloom? Because they're not due for another month or more, that's why. We're spending all the blooms of April and the early part of May in a few hot days in March. And then what will we do for the rest of the spring?
Last year, after a winter that I remember fondly for almost constant snow cover, we had a lovely, long, cool, moist spring that kept a splendid tapestry of bloom going for many weeks. This year, I fear the whole spring is about to dry up and blow away.
It's not just us. According to this Washington Post story, it was 94 Sunday in South Dakota and International Falls, Minn., has set records in 9 out of the last 10 days.
Is this the coming of global warming doom? No, it's a weather fluctuation caused by a stationary cold front in the west. As I explained a few days ago in a story in the Chicago Tribune about how gardeners can adapt, climate change doesn't guarantee warmer weather. But it does mean that there will be an overall tendency toward more extreme weather events -- and this awful March sunshine certainly qualifies.
|Bloodroot blooming too soon|
Which brings me to another worry: Everything's out of whack. Things that are supposed to bloom at the same time aren't. Where will the bees get pollen if all the spring flowers are gone too soon? What about all the native insects whose hatching and feeding is precisely coordinated to plants flowering and leafing out? Sandhill cranes are migrating early, and I've been seeing all sorts of unexpected bids. What are they finding to eat, I wonder?
And how will it end? The weather guy promises thunderstorms Thursday (and at least where I live, we need the rain. I had the sprinklers out Sunday for some shrubs I had planted last fall). Behind the front is a sharp drop -- down to 30 at night by the weekend. Which is pretty normal, for March, actually. But it's going to be hell on those magnolias.
I, personally, will be relieved, not just because I sleep better when it's cool but because a return to normal might salvage some spring. Maybe it will even get cool enough for my lettuce seeds to germinate.