Coral, burgundy and copper chrysanthemums are blooming in my garden. It’s June, not October! Mums are short-day (photoperiodic) plants that bud and flower only when nights are longer than days, usually after the Summer Solstice.
When I lived on the Texas Gulf Coast, mum plants regularly budded out and flowered in March and again in late October. That’s because the perennials never died back to the ground and plenty of foliage to support flowering was available in late winter when nights were longer than days.
I now live in Zone 5, where perennials don’t start growing until April. But, this year, the country experienced a heat wave throughout March, after an extremely warm winter.
These coral mum plants are full of buds and will probably bloom into July. I wonder if they will recover fast enough to produce autumn flowers.
Mum plants broke dormancy almost two months early, grew rapidly and set flower buds. Other short-day plants like milkweed and goldenrod set buds, too.
Monarch and Painted Lady butterflies hatched in March, too, and feasted on the milkweed, tulips and hyacinths.
There are so many Painted Lady butterflies swarming in my garden that it's easy to find a handful!
An apple-scented geranium (pelgorium) planted last spring is growing again in the rose bed. It’s a Zone 10 plant native to South America! Amphorphallus ‘Konjac’ and gladiola bulbs I missed when digging them up last October have sprouted and are growing, too.
I grew this tropical apple-scented-leaf geranium last summer and was amazed when it popped out of the ground this month.
The ground never froze last winter, due to little snow and warm temperatures. It usually dips to -20F, and a two-foot snowpack is normal. This year, scant snow that melted within hours, and temperatures rarely below 20F were the norm. My Zone 5 winter was really a Zone 8 one. No wonder perennials sprouted in March, urged on by the warm ground.
This season’s fruit crop is a disaster, except for blueberries. All the apple trees and the Asian pear flowered in late March and froze when night temperatures suddenly dipped below 20F in the first few days of April. Every blossom was killed. My five blueberry shrubs managed to survive the freeze, because their flowers were only half open. I’m picking a huge crop of berries now, six weeks ahead of schedule.
Has your weather been weird this year, too? Share your stories with all of us.
Doreen Howard has written for The Old Farmer's Almanac All-Seasons Garden Guide for 15 years and is the former garden editor at Woman’s Day as well as a photographer. She has grown more than 300 varieties of heirloom edibles and flowers in the last two decades.