Sunday, March 27, 2016

Spring Expectations

Weather: High winds Tuesday broke a small dead branch from top of my cottonwood; winds yesterday were cold; last snow 2/23.

What’s blooming: Siberian elms, some types of crab apples, Bradford pears, peaches, cherries, forsythia, daffodils, hyacinth, tansy mustard, dandelions.

What’s coming up: Pink salvia, sweet peas, yellow yarrow.

What has new growth: Snow-in-summer, brome snakeweed, pampas, needle, and rice grasses. New leaves on roses and lilacs.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, aptenia.

Animal sightings: Small birds, gecko, small red ants.

Weekly update: A couple weeks ago, a woman from Alcalde was telling people in the post office how her apricots were covered with flowers. When I made some comment about a late spring frost, she gave me one of those looks she probably reserved for hornets and said, "I hope not."

Several things came to mind, but since they occurred simultaneously, they blocked each other. I just nodded and made some appeasing noise.

I was thinking, it’s only March!

I know, calendars are man-made objects that have been used by people in power to control others. But, they aren’t arbitrary. They were based on close observations of the universe, the movements of stars, the sun and moon, and on seasonal variations in plant and animal behavior.

When a month is associated with cold, it’s usually cold, and when it’s not it’s not. The old saws normally hold: winds in March, rains in April, flowers in May.

But not this year. Since the middle of last summer some configuration in the atmosphere has pushed rain south. Texas gets flooded, and we get winds. Whatever it is that’s happening, it’s not something that was used to create the original calendars.

This unknown also may explain why afternoon temperatures have been abnormally warm. Morning temperatures continue to vary from the normal mid-20's to the occasional night in the 40's. The fact cherries in Washington, D. C., are blooming more than a week early only confirms something odd is happening, but doesn’t change the cycle of nature. The last freeze date of the year is not arrived at by democratic vote.

The exception is Easter, the one holiday that moves every year depending on variations in lunar cycles. If one expects warm weather to coincide with Holy week, then this year is exactly on schedule, and all those trees and shrubs that respond to afternoon temperatures to blossom are correct.

As I noted in my post for 7 April 2013, the use of flowering plants in church yards and their implicit connection with Easter may be more of a Protestant or northern European concept that a Catholic or Mediterranean European one.

I didn’t see any flowers at any of the Roman Catholic churches this past week, although the Santa Cruz convento had a yellow forsythia and pink flowering tree. I suspect an invisible forsythia was blooming behind the wall at Sacred Heart.

In contrast, the courtyard of Bradford pears was in full bloom at the Mormons, and a Bradford pear was blooming in the courtyard at the Baptist church. A peach was blooming at Amazing Grace. An apricot was out of bloom at an abandoned Assembly of God.

It’s too early for the tulips that sometimes bloom for Easter at one of the smaller Catholic churches and at the larger Methodist one.

So, those who expect nothing because they follow an irregular spring calendar are happily surprised when their apricots bloom early. Others may notice most of the flowers for this year’s Easter are as sterile as the hard boiled decorated eggs.

The only people I’ve seen who’ve been acting on what they’ve been told, rather than on observation, are those who are pruning their trees now, after the sap has started flowing. They, no doubt like the woman in Alcalde, noticed there’s been no fruit for the past several years. But, rather than associate that with early blooms and late frosts, they’re acting on the advice of experts who say trees that have stopped bearing should be pruned back into fertility.

Trees, if they get water, tend to survive their keepers. My apricot lost most of its flowers, but a few buds are now opening high on the tree, far beyond my ability to pick them if they survive. My peach and forsythia have opened a few flowers, but kept most of their buds in reserve. If the weather stays erratic, they may never fully bloom, but continue their tentative essays until all their buds are dispensed.

Photographs: All taken today, Easter morning, 27 March 2016, around 9:30 am.

1. Bradford pear flowers; they produce no fruit.

2. Forsythia flowers tinged with brown from cold air.

3. Flowering crab apples are blooming near the river. Mine has leafed, but it’s buds are still dark balls. The leaf buds on the fruiting ones are just beginning to differentiate themselves.

4. Some peach flowers have opened, and been scotched by the cold. Most buds are just showing color, but not expanding.

5. Apricot flowers at the very top of the tree.

6. The first daffodil flower at the south end of the garage where it gets the most sun.

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