Amateur Phenology

So. Ummmm. Who’s a little freaked out by this crazy weather? They say Canada is totally backwards especially for an El Nino year with the west coast all wet and wild and the east unseasonably warm and snow-less. I’ve heard that things are also a bit nutty in parts of the U.S and my Northern California friends are talking about super early magnolia blooms.

Just today I received a frantic phone call from my friend Sarah announcing that she had just spotted two yellow, blooming dandelions on her street. That’s exactly how she said it, “Mark this down: two blooming dandelions, January 4, 2007, Toronto, Ontario.

Sarah also mentioned that dandelions are known as an indicator of weather patterns. Apparently there are people who record when the dandelions bloom in certain areas. While I do know that this kind of pattern study is called Phenology (as gardeners we are all amateur phenologists in some way), I have been unable to find information relating phenology specifically to dandelions. However, this article states that blooming dandelions indicate when the soil temperature is “… between 50 – 55 degrees. That is the same temperature that soil microbes become active, so dandelion flowers are a nice indicator for when the soil is waking up.

I truly hope my soil is not waking up.

Actually I’m pretty sure it is. Here’s some photographic evidence:

    First up, the crocus is out. No buds yet but I am fearfully watching and wonder what this will mean when ACTUAL spring comes along.
    The pansies didn’t actually stop. Pansies are quite resilient and will often keep blooming until the hard chill really kicks in. The container plants give up much earlier since they are much more exposed to the cold.

I have also noticed that a lot of other early spring risers are coming up in full force. These include perennials and self-seeding annuals such as: artemisia, globe thistle, anise-hyssop, grasses, and giant red mustard. I am not particularly concerned about the long-term welfare of these hardy plants but am worried about how this will fare for the more delicate of the bunch.

Anyone with further interest on how warming has affected gardening may want to check out this cool map of the U.S (Sadly I could not find a Canadian equivalent) that shows how the hardiness zones have been changed to reflect overall climate change.

{via the You Grow Girl Forums}

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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7 thoughts on “Amateur Phenology

  1. we just woke up to about 8 inches of unexpected snow, and it’s still coming! about a month and a half ago, the landscaping people put in what i estimated to be about $1000 worth of pansies at the condos where i live and i shook my head and laughed. it snowed a few days later and they all kicked the bucket.

    it’s nuts.

  2. Pansies live here year-round, but I will say that I am not ready budget-wise, planning-wise, or any-wise for my gardening season to start in JANUARY. I even still have a small bit of clean-up left from last year. It will just have to wait until early-March no matter what the new charts are saying.

  3. Yesterday I saw that one of my hostas seems to be emerging. Oh, and some tulips, too. Columbine never completely died. Neither did the foxgloves or lady’s mantle. It’s nuts.

  4. Our daffodils, dwarf iris, hyacinths, columbine, sidalcea and frits are all a few inches tall. Snowdrops and crocus have been blooming for two weeks. I’m a little nervous about the Big Chill taking them all out… might have to use some pine boughs to cover them soon. I miss our natural insulation–snow!!!

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