In Holland, a pretty town on Lake Michigan, the Dutch heritage is strong, and naturally they have an annual tulip festival, which is where the picture below was taken. This year it is scheduled for May 5-12. Just one problem. The tulips are already in bloom there in the 3rd week of March.
They aren’t the only people with a problem. We have scheduled our triennial Siberian & Species convention for early June this year. What to do? As I write this on March 22nd the outside temperature is 83o. There have been temperatures above 60o virtually every day for the last 17 day and mostly in the high 70s with three days in the 80s. Yesterday it was 86o (that’s high summer around here and exactly 40o above normal!). We have had 8 new record highs in the last 9 days. Having lived in the Midwest for 45 years, this is not jut unusual, it is virtually unimaginable. What is more, it follows a remarkably mild winter which saw flowers bloom here in January (hellebores) for the first time in my recollection. And the forecast is for warmer than normal weather to continue through into the early summer here.
Because of the unbelievable early warmth, we are now in full spring mode with flowers and leaves popping like champagne corks. Irises are 6 inches high and our friends at Ensata Gardens say they have just put on their first borer spray. This is 4-6 weeks ahead of any normal year. So, even with some return to sanity in the weather, there seems to be little chance that we will see any bloom left at the time when the convention was originally scheduled. Also, we have at least 6 weeks yet to go before the normal date for the last killing frost. If we revert to that norm, a freeze would decimate the irises. So we have sorrowfully agreed to postpone the Convention until next year. Hopefully this decision is taken early enough that not too many people have already made travel plans. If they have, please contact Judy Hollingworth at cyberiris@ att.net. At least next year the guest irises, already very healthy clumps, should be a sight to behold.
OK, OK I know, we shouldn’t whine too much. We are far from alone in experiencing this extraordinary early growth season which has been widespread across the eastern US, and certainly many others, such as fruit growers, have much more at risk from a perfectly normal frost or two in April or even early May. But, now we have a convention to reschedule for 2013. When should that be?
This year is insanely early, but what about 2011? Perversely, that was so cold in the spring that our local iris society canceled its late May show because we had so little bloom – only the second such cancellation anyone could recall. No help there then. OK, so maybe we should turn to the long-range weather forecasters, from the Farmer’s Almanac to the National Weather Service. But then we recall that the one word that stood out across the board for the winter weather forecast this last winter was “brutal” with predictions of lots of cold blasts and snow. And how did that turn out? The golfers were teeing off in January wearing light sweaters. So forget that too. So who do we turn to? Well, maybe you can help. There is a theory called “The Wisdom of Crowds” that says that in making judgments in uncertain situations, the joint estimates of the many are smarter than the ideas of experts. So here’s your chance. Post your vote for the bloom season in 2013 – will it be (a) unusually early, (b) pretty much normal, or (c) later than normal. If we can get enough people to vote, we’ll go with that wisdom as the best guess.
Looking on the brighter side, maybe we should just enjoy this experience. The winter was short and relatively sweet. Spring is glorious whenever it comes. The heating bills are a pleasure to behold. And just to keep everyone ready for the bloom season whenever that may be, here are a couple of Siberian garden pictures. Won’t be long!