Gardening is considered the number one American past-time with garden center revenues exceeding $25 billion annually. This passion for plants and gardens is likely true in England, Japan, Australia, and elsewhere in the world. However, when you see trees starting to bloom and bees trying to pollinate in February in northern states something is happening in the backyard and the impacts could become wide spread.
It is being called the “climate change garden” by horticulturalists at the New Your Botanical Garden ( NYBG ) and discussed in a New York Times article. Species of Japanese flowering apricot trees, camellias, and yellow adonis are now in full bloom a month ahead of their typical flowering time in late March.
According to staff at the Bronx garden: “this is the earliest we’ve seen all these things in flower and the ground isn’t even frozen. That’s shocking.”
The USDA has recently updated their plant hardiness zone maps for the first time since 1990. These national planting charts are based on last day of frost, now happening earlier in the year than previous USDA map editions. The fact that rapid changes are being recognized over a decade time frame is faster than plants and insects can adapt their biological rhythms. Additionally, if there is a serious cold snap after the balmy weather, trees in particular can become confused and stressed by the upward movement of sap induced by the unseasonal warmth. Cornell researchers were quoted as saying that this winter appeared to “represent an extreme” even within climate change models that reveals “an extremely fast pace” of temperature change.
So for all those gardeners out there here’s an idea: you may want to start putting heaps of ice cubes around the roots of your flowering trees. This might keep them from sprouting leaves in a temperature regime more typical of the southern USA than northern locations.
Welcome to your climate change garden!