What happened to winter?

Plants think it is spring

Monday, December 28, 2015

Our plants are telling us that the immediate climate – aka, winter -- is askew.

Daffodils and some camellias were flowering at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in early December. Chicago Botanic Garden is anticipating that there may be fewer flowers in spring because of warm weather in mid-December. Cherry trees are blooming in Washington, D.C. Here at home, there are some noticeable clues. Crape myrtles still have some leaves while the tomatoes flower but won’t set fruit and the butterfly ginger keeps on flowering, and the frangipani (normally leafless in winter) is producing new leaves. Crotons, which usually rest this time of year, are full of new leaves. Orchids are simply unhappy.

I checked in with Motes Orchids. Martin Motes, who is a keen observer of the effects of weather on his orchids, reports fewer blooms on vandas “than we have seen in fifty years. Some of that may be caused by other factors but lack of distinct swing of day to night temperatures is certainly a factor. Our Epidendrum ciliare have bloomed a month early. Dendrobium lindleyi are making new growths.’’

His tomatoes melted from fungus, and the late-season avocados, Lula and Choquette, which normally stay on the trees until February, have matured and are dropping, he said.

Julie Rosenberg, an orchid judge who works at R.F. orchids, says Epidendrum stamfordianum bloomed in November, four months ahead of schedule. Some of the dendrobiums in the Callista group, which include D. lindleyi, farmeri, and thyrsifolium, also bloomed early. These normally flower in March. 

Rhynchostylis gigantea also bloomed a little early -- these are typically late December/January, and we had some blooming in November,” she said in an email.

Here in my garden, Rhyncolaelia digbyana has produced three flowers this month – and it normally flowers in March or April. The first blossom on another spring bloomer, Oncidium sphacelatum, opened this morning. The phalaenopsis orchids are struggling to produce flower spikes, normally fairly long by now.

Citizen scientists, please report on what’s happening in your garden so we can share the news.