Experienced landscape designers are accustomed to working around the clock — Mother Nature’s clock, that is.
Unfortunately, while the changing of the seasons can be relatively predictable, freak weather events like El Nino can throw a wrench in the best laid plans, and gardens. The unseasonably warm December on the east coast and other parts of the U.S. has been causing problems for landscapers, botanical gardens, and flower centers around the country.
Landscape designers sometimes call it a false spring, when unusually warm winter weather causes flowers to bloom early. On Christmas Eve in New York City, holiday visitors to the New York Botanical Garden were treated to an unusual December sight, blue skies and blooming hellebores, cherry trees, viburnums, and more.
One professional landscaper told Gothamist.com that:
“We are concerned by a few things, but we are also seasoned gardeners who have seen this sort of thing before (2006, I believe most recently).
What concerns us:
1) Any flower that is open now, will not be open this spring.
2) Any growth that pushes now will be damaged or destroyed when winter actually comes, which it will. This will be an added stress on top of the drought and heat of last summer. We would expect an increase in damage from secondary pathogens (insects and disease) in some cases.
3) Winter weather is good for killing pests of plants. Extended warmth in fall and winter gives pests additional opportunity to attack our plants.
Not only that, but the annual deep freeze that comes each winter helps keep pest populations down. Warmer temperatures now could mean more bugs later. And since many plants that flower early won’t bloom at all during the spring, it’s a challenging time for landscaping services.
Of course, it comes with the territory, and experienced landscape designers will know how to work around these challenges. Still, that’s left some amateur horticulturalists wondering how best to care for plants that have started blooming early in their garden.
Professional landscapers say there’s little home gardeners can do after a plant has bloomed early, unless they visit a flower nursery or garden center to find new specimens to plant come springtime. Regardless, gardeners should take extra care to protect plants from extra insects and other pests come spring.