February 2018

Out of season blooms

Creeping phlox blooming in fall and early winter. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Several people have commented about forsythia and magnolias and other spring or early summer flowering trees and shrubs blooming this fall.

Even as I write this, there are patches of creeping phlox (Phlox stolonifera) sporting pink blooms in two landscapes in my neighborhood. Granted, the flowers are not as numerous as the perennial’s spring show, but they are blooming. Rhododendrons and crabapples (Malus) might do this, too.

The phenomenon is called blooming out of sequence and it is caused by the weather.

In 2012, our plants suffered the hottest, driest summer in about 100 years. To protect themslves, the plants shut down. The most visible signs came from deciduous trees and shrubs. They either had dried or dropped leaves.

Once the rains came, the plants reawakened and when the weather turned cold, it tricked the plants into acting like it’s spring. So, instead of reblooming late in the season, the plants actually are blooming early.

It’s possible that some of next spring’s flower power will be diminished because of the early show this fall. Usually, there’s nothing to worry about and the plants will likely get their timing right within a year.

Winter warnings

Just a few holly berries can be deadly toxic to humans and pets. (C) Fotolia,com

If it ever gets cold enough for snow and ice, look for deicers that are safe for use around plants and pets. Salt-based deicers can damage trees, shrubs, lawns and new concrete. Be sure to check the label and follow the directions.

The edges of lawns that abut driveways, sidewalks or streets can be particularly vulnerable. Beside damage from deicers, snow piled up on the edges of lawn may smother the grass or invite fungus diseases.

Remember that holly berries, mistletoe and yew berries are poisonous, so if using as holiday decoration, keep them away from children and pets. Despite the rap, poinsettias are not poisonous, although they are not considered an edible plant.


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