Why early bloomers and late bloomers in cloudy, cool spring?
You don’t have to be a weather nerd to have noticed that 2015/16 was the year without a winter. Many gardening friends reported to me that they had recorded zero freeze events in their landscapes. Myself, I noted only two. And while that led to most plants’ emergence from hibernation much earlier than usual, some even in the middle of January, for others, the lack of cold made for a “wasted” year.
Specifically, certain plants use the hours of daylight as a seasonal yardstick. Only once the days are longer than a certain number of hours will they flower or have a growth spurt. Well, more accurately, it’s when nights are shorter than a certain length.
But perhaps more notably in your garden, certain fruit trees were late onto the scene. For temperate zone plants, the number of chill hours is critical for the mechanisms that control flowering and fruit production. And since flower bud emergence occurs before leaf buds begin to break, their whole biochemical systems were thrown out of whack.
As of May 5th, my ‘Bruce’plum tree had one flower and two leaves on it. With fruit trees, it’s critical that you select cultivars that are matched to the number of chill hours typical for your area. And my plum tree happens to need a more “normal” amount of winter temperatures than we received this year.
Late emergence for my plum tree has been the trend for the five years it’s been in my garden, but as I planted this particular cultivar in memory of my mother (it was her favorite plum, and plums were very important to her), I haven’t wanted to give up and replace it with a more appropriate one. Sadly, I think this might be the year that I do so. I think she would understand.