Let Winter Be Winter
There’s a compact Korean Spice Viburnum (Viburnum carlesii) just outside our front door. I give it a close inspection, if I’m not in a hurry, almost every time I enter or exit the house.
This plant’s flower clusters form during the autumn, then bloom in spring. So this past fall, I was happy to see that the coming year was set to bring a decent handful of blooms. In prior years the number of flower clusters has ranged from 0 to 1, not including the one that was eaten by a malicious bird.
But my happiness was soon replaced by anxiety. That’s because the mild winter weather is causing the flower clusters to come out of dormancy and bloom – slowly, one tiny flower at a time. The picture above illustrates the point.
We’ve all seen plants lured into bloom by early spring weather that precedes a flower-shriveling deep freeze. It can be heartbreaking, but it happens.
I don’t think I can recall flowers enticed into blooming by mild weather in December and January. It would be awful to go without these blooms and their wonderful fragrance in May because they were wasted in January. (Funny thing, there is no hint of fragrance on the flowers that have opened.)
A mild winter is nice as far as it goes, but winter should still be properly cold. Not nostril-freezing cold, but overcoat cold. Cold enough not to confuse the plants or the people. And there should be some snow, not enough to strain back muscles with shoveling, but at least a modest blanket of insulating white for most of the season.
Anyway, that’s what I’m hoping for: weather that will tell my Korean Spice Viburnum to forget any crazy ideas.
Complaining about the weather is an activity as old as humanity, though I’m sure it got a lot more popular once we started cultivating plants. (I used to visit North Dakota for a prior job, and there I learned the following joke: Q: What do you call a basement full of farmers? A: A whine cellar.) And there have always been variations, sometimes extreme, among the seasons.
But with the specter of climate change, things are different. As the years pass, what we call normal weather has become increasingly rare. And this undermines the comfort I derive from the annual progression of flowers and fruits, butterflies and birds.
However, the future is not yet written (an outbreak of sanity is still possible). We do possess some power over events, most notably the power to elect political leadership that acknowledges climate change as a reality that must be confronted.