This is a conversation I'm witness to every fall and winter:
"Oh no! My bulbs are coming up! It's not time!"
"Mine are too! This can't be good. What's going to happen to them when spring gets here?"
I learned several years ago that certain bulbs will make an appearance in the fall as a normal and expected occurrence. Grape hyacinths do it. So do most bulbs in the Allium family, including garlic. As a fellow gardener once told me, "It's their way of saying, 'Don't dig here!'" as you're looking for yet another place to put fall-planted bulbs.
Most of us would agree that this has been an unusual weather year. Here in Ohio, we had way too much rain in May, which delayed planting for both the farmers and the home gardeners. Then in June, it was as if someone turned the faucet off and didn't turn it back on until August. Someone turned the thermostat up too, as we experienced above normal temperatures for much of the summer.
The fall season was beautiful. It stayed warmer longer than usual. We got a nice amount of rain and the gardens perked up. Then there were a couple bouts with winter. Just two weeks ago, we had night temperatures in the low to mid-teens. 13°F is br-r-r cold. Last week, it was 53°F at midnight. While fickle weather is characteristic of the Midwest, this is not really normal.
Our gardens are a little bit confused too. With bulbs relying on temperatures to regulate their growth and blooming schedules, some of them just don't know whether to sleep or leap. My snow crocus are up about two inches all over the gardens. I took notice and though it's unusual for the crocus to do this, I didn't get too worried until I took a closer look.
|16 December 2011|
Daffodils (Narcissus bulbocodium) on the left, crocus on the right
Not only is the foliage well out of the ground, the crocuses have got buds. Not good.
I did a little research online and found that this isn't unusual when warm winters happen in cold climates. Yes, spring bloom can be affected and that's something that only time will tell. But just about the only thing you can do is add some mulch to the early emergers and hope for the best.
They'll either make it okay through the winter and bloom as spring is springing, or they won't. I'll be disappointed if our warm fall weather robs us of the marvelous burst of color these and other spring bulbs bring, just when we think we can't take another wintry day.
Some years are like that.