Monday, April 9, 2018

Late Freezes

In the Garden

By Catherine Dougherty

Not Quite Spring


The Oklahoma weather has been bi-polar at best providing the gamut of conditions from summer-like highs to deep winter lows. Last weekend, we had an arctic plunge with rain turning to sleet and snow over much of the state. The early blooming flowers were sorely damaged and many of the Iris which were earnestly planning a fabulous show were completely frozen. The tulips drooped their heads and much of the early foliage has the tell tale transparency that indicates it was frost bitten.


The flocks of geese that were seen flying North last week were absent over the weekend… they knew of the wintry weather so they settled on local lakes and ponds to wait a bit. The rule of thumb in Oklahoma is that we usually have our last freeze on or about April 15th and folklore suggests freezes are over when the leaves on the Oak are the size of a squirrel’s ear. Another freeze is expected on Saturday morning so gardeners will have to set their trembling trowels aside for another week and resist planting the tender begonias and geraniums.  


Regardless of the sporadic weather, the song birds have increased their activities with the arrival of mating season and since the trees have not yet leafed, we are allowed a brief moment in time to watch feathered courtship rituals. Their songs have a new sweetness and they are darting about seriously flirting and ‘dating‘. The Titmouse, Chickadees, and Goldfinches are earnest, the lady Cardinals all look like teenagers, and the Woodpecker has begun rat-a-tat drilling to provide a home for babies. Once the trees have fully leafed, the sight and sound of our feathered friends will be minimized but right now they provide delightful entertainment in the garden.


It must be noted that early buds are swelling on the Maples and Elms and with them comes considerable pollen and without rain it is floating about. Without going into intricate scientific explanations, it may be simply stated that the pollen of most trees, shrubs, and grasses is lighter than the pollen of flowers. It is carried by the wind as high as three miles up and as far as 100 miles from the original plant. Easily inhaled, it is the culprit of the condition called hay fever (or allergies) as it may irritate an individual’s throat and nose. With our typical breeze often increasing to driving winds, it is impossible to avoid this early pollen. As way of compensation, the pollen on flowers that arrive later in the season is generally much heavier… meaning it does not tend to blow about with such a vengeance. Thus as the season progresses, allergies will ease a bit. However annoying it may be now, it is necessary for the plant reproduction so we must be accommodating… while sneezing our way through spring.


Photo: Oak buds swelling.

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