Locust Winter 2015

42 degrees.

That’s what the thermometer said when I peeked at it with uncaffeinated eyes this morning at 6:30.

So, I rubbed my eyes, slipped on my glasses, and looked again.

42 degrees.

Three sips of coffee later – it still says 42 degrees, but it’s not as fuzzy.

And, after three openings and closings of the outside door, I don’t need the thermometer to tell me the third “winter” of this Spring has slipped in upon us.

Locust winter is here.


And, yes.  Locust trees are blooming.  I saw one Sunday on the way to church – the racemes were just beginning to lengthen, turn white, and open.

(Can’t help but wonder about the Honey Locust trees at the Zoo.  If they are blooming, the aroma there would be delightful!!)

Redbud, Dogwood, and now Locust – that’s three “winters.”  The next will be Blackberry.

I’ve located two blackberry bushes, both of which are full of swelling buds.  It won’t be long before the bushes are dotted with white flowers. Perhaps, they will bloom during this week’s prolonged cool down and we can strike two winters off the list before May slips in and Summer’s heat begins to tease.

Not one to wait for Cotton Britches Winter to send winter wear packing to the attic, I’m already sporting shorts and sleeveless shirts. But, I’ve kept out a jacket and a sweater – just in case.  And, this morning it feels like a mighty good idea.


Locust Winter Ushers in Strong Storms

Wednesday, I was surprised to see that Black Locust trees had bloomed.  They were full of leaves and covered in white racemes. Three days prior (Sunday) they had barely begun to leaf out.

What a difference three days made.

Several mornings midweek saw temperatures hover around 43.  Locust Winter had arrived.  But, as these late Spring winters are, it was just a breath of fresh air before the temperature soared once again into the 80’s.

Thursday night storms rolled in and rain fell…a lot of rain.  Newly planted gardens #1 and #2 drank in the water and pink-eyed purple hull peas popped up out of the ground.

Today, I had planned to plant okra seeds, but after looking at next week’s forecast I’ve decided to hold off…several reasons…may wish I’d waited to plant both gardens….

Initially, I’d thought I might wait until late next week to plant okra – after the next round of severe weather (forecast to arrive tomorrow and linger into Tuesday).  From the forecasts I’d seen overnight temperatures next week wouldn’t be low enough to discourage the okra from sprouting. (Okra is notoriously slow to sprout, often taking 10 to 14 days. Soaking the seeds overnight in warm water will encourage them to sprout quickly and lessen the possibility of rotting.)

However, it now appears that we have a period of a few days next week when daytime and evening temperatures will be cool.  These few days will follow three days of heavy rain and violent storms…little chance of solar heating to warm the ground between cold downpours that will chill the ground. AND, if the forecast holds true, any seeds I plant may be washed away in the 3 inches of rain expected.

By Wednesday morning I may be waving goodbye to gardens #1 and #2 as they float away.

Mom and I discussed gardening and Spring’s winters. She said Locust Winter hasn’t come…that it will snap after the next front comes through.  I disagreed, saying it had already come and okra could safely go into the ground.

It looks like I was wrong.  I sure do hate admitting that to her. 😉

These Spring Winters are confusing but one thing is certain.  Whatever cold snap(s) we have while the Locust trees are blooming will be called Locust Winter by folks around these parts. And, these same folks will be looking ahead to the winter that announces warm weather is here to stay – Blackberry Winter.

(Of note: I hear the racemes of Black Locust are edible…. Not sure I would care to try them since the pods and seeds are toxic. However, the seed pods of Honey Locust, which blooms at about the same time as the Black Locust apparently can be eaten. Take care, though…the thorns on both are vicious!)

Spring’s Tease

A couple days of warm sunny weather teased me into thinking Winter had packed up and slipped out.

All to quickly, I was ready to haul out the plants I’d stored in the garage and shop for tomato plants.

A walk around my neighborhood provides a needed reminder that Spring may have arrived on the calendar but Winter has not yet released its grip.

Bradford Pear trees are in full bloom.  I suppose the cold snap we just experienced corresponds to them. Dare I call it Bradford Pear Winter?? 😉  (Mom says it’s Redbud Winter because Redbuds are just beginning to break bud.  I’ll stick with pear…when redbuds are in full bloom we will have another cold snap….)

Ahead of us lie Redbud Winter, Dogwood Winter, Locust Winter, Blackberry Winter…Cotton Britches Winter –  no, Winter is not yet done with us.

After spending over 30 years in South Georgia, I still expect Spring-like weather to be deeply entrenched by now and for Summer to be just around the corner.  I grew up here and lived in Tennessee for over 20 years – and have been back for a year and a half.  But, still I find myself reacting as though I’m in the rush to get it all done by April 1.

I need to slow down…breathe easy.  Relax.  Spring is only a few days old. There are still frosts, freezes and even the possibility of snow before all is said and done (and planted and pruned).

Providing myself time to simply enjoy the season and my place in it is important.

Perhaps…as important as all I might accomplish.

Cotton Britches Winter

From childhood I knew of Spring “winters” – knew the names, what to watch for and how to designate which “winter” we were having here in Middle Tennessee. (Different locations experience it at different times – 400 miles South of here cranks things forward a month, maybe more, and squeezes them tighter together, time-wise.)

In my neighborhood, two Spring “winters” preceded the “official” winters – Tulip Magnolia Winter (mid to late February/early March) and Pear Winter (early to mid March).  Our next door neighbor had a beautiful Tulip tree – every year, while it was in full bloom, a hard freeze would turn the beautiful pink blossoms brown. You could count on it.  Across the street, lived a tall pear tree. If it came into bloom, I wore my heavy jacket to school without complaint.

Redbud Winter is the first official Spring “winter” recognized by the locals. It’s a hard cold snap that happens when Redbud trees bloom (late March, early April).

Within a few days, the weather returns to Spring-like temperatures for a couple of weeks and then bottoms out again when Dogwood trees bloom – Dogwood Winter (early to mid April).

Locust Winter follows Dogwood and often brings a late frost (late April to early May).

And, then Blackberry Winter arrives before Locust trees have shed their racemes, bringing the last chance of frost and alerting gardeners that it’s safe to plant okra (early to mid May).

Four official Spring “winters:”

  1. Redbud
  2. Dogwood
  3. Locust
  4. Blackberry

Yesterday, I learned there are five.

A local news weather prognosticator said the 80+ degree temperatures we’ve enjoyed the past few days will give way to cooler temperatures after the cold front moves through. By cooler temperatures he meant highs in the lower 70’s during the day and 50’s at night. He declared it “Cotton Britches Winter.”

I’d heard of Linsey Woolsey Winter. Folks in Eastern Tennessee and Kentucky know that’s when it’s time to pack away your winter clothes and pull out your summer (mid to late May)

Perhaps “Cotton Britches Winter” means we can put on our light weight cotton britches and pack away the wool ones. 😉 Or, perhaps it means we thought Blackberry Winter was the last cool snap and we got caught with our cotton britches down.

In any event, let’s not forget about Whippoorwill Winter (late May, early June). Summer doesn’t officially begin until June 21.

Locust Winter

Wednesday evening, when Hubby and I were out for a walk, we came across a sweet, musky aroma that was so strong we could taste it.

“Do you smell that?” I asked Hubby. “It’s Locust blossoms!”

Within 30 seconds we were within sight of the white racemes.  As we drew nearer, we saw three Locust trees loaded with blooms.

Hubby looked at me and grinned.  “Locust Winter’s finally coming, right?”

I laughed and said, “Yep!”

Thursday morning, I checked the weather.  I’d planned on finishing the garden prep and planting seeds that day, but the forecast left me scratching my head and wondering if it would be wise to plant seeds with 2 to 4 inches of rain forecast for the weekend and temperatures not rising above the 40’s.

Who wants to go to all that work only to have to redo and replant?  What difference will waiting a few more days make, anyway?

Knowing the seeds I planned to put into the ground need warm soil to germinate, I checked the forecast temperatures for the upcoming days.  Warm day, warm night, cool day, cold night, cool day, and cold night before warming again.

I remembered the Locust trees in full bloom.

Locust Winter is upon us.  That leaves one more Spring Winter – Blackberry Winter.

Redbud Winter, Dogwood Winter and Now What?

Redbud has faded.  Few blooms remain as green leaves sprout and take over the limbs.

Dogwood is in its full glory – brilliant white blossoms against a backdrop of green.  Yes, green. Dogwoods are sporting green leaves.

Maples have bloomed and have begun to leaf out. Spring is here.

Redbud Winter came and went. Dogwood Winter chilled us. And, then Spring warmed up to 88 degrees before the bottom fell out – the temperature dipped to around 35 the past two nights.

After Dogwood Winter comes Locust winter. This cold snap should herald the awakening of that tree but in all my looking I’ve not seen the first Locust tree. Perhaps I just don’t know where to look.

After all, this is my first Spring in this location after 30+ years absence.  The Locust trees I was familiar with in my childhood neighborhood no longer exist.

In our travel South last weekend, we encountered Locust trees in bloom.  It was amazing to me that as we left here and climbed into the higher altitudes of the mountains, Spring seemed to slip backward.

What had already bloomed here was just coming into bloom there. And, as we slid down into the Lower South, it seemed Spring accelerated with each mile we drove. By the time we reached our destination we knew Summer was near.

Our return via a different route was a similar experience, only in reverse. Near Summer faded to early Spring, which gave way to mid Spring’s blush here at home.

Locust Winter? I won’t know until I see blooms. Am I a winter off? I don’t think so. Dogwoods sport green leaves amidst their blooms. Dogwood winter is past. Isn’t it?

If the white, frosty ground yesterday morning was any indicator, this has to be Locust Winter.

Mom, however, says it’s still Dogwood Winter.  “Dogwood trees are still in bloom. This is the middle of April, you know – not the first of May and certainly not the end of May. We’re going to have a bit of Winter weather thrown in from time to time. That’s how Spring is here.”

Yes, I know…that’s how Spring is.

I have a garden to plant and flowers to grow. I’m eager to get the seeds into the ground – and for the ground to warm enough for the seeds to germinate and the seedlings to grow and not be stunted by the cold..

Patience is a virtue, they say. And, I am patient –

  • patiently searching for illusive Locust trees
  • patiently enduring the temperature fluctuations
  • patiently cutting grass in 88 degree weather
  • patiently covering tender plants to protect them from frost
  • patiently watching the calendar
  • patiently waiting for Blackberry Winter’s arrival
  • patiently wishing for a 2013 Farmers Almanac for this area
  • patiently learning and remembering the ins and outs of planting here
  • patiently remembering that we are 400 miles North of where we lived 30+ years
  • patiently waiting for the weather to settle
  • patiently hoping I remember what I learn this Spring and can apply it to the next
  • patiently seeking advice from those who know more than I
  • patiently accepting wisdom from sources with experience and understanding

Is this Locust Winter? Time will tell.

Does it truly matter whether it’s Locust Winter or another bite from Dogwood Winter? No. It matters not.

This is Spring – a time of awakening and newness, a time for embracing change and of finding place and purpose – a time of ebb and flow, hot and cold, up and down.

Each cold snap has its purpose and performs its duty – delaying this, awakening that.

Locust Winter? Stay tuned. I’m taking a walk around the neighborhood this afternoon just to look for Locust trees. 😉

Oh, and Mom also said Locust trees bloom only after they leaf out.  So, as much as I hate to say it…I may be wrong. (Hubby, I hope you aren’t reading this…but if you are – yes, I said it, and, no, I won’t repeat it.)

Tomorrow’s post will include Locust tree sightings and their progress.

Spring’s Winters

Redbuds trees are blooming.


Accustomed to early Spring in the DEEP South, after 30+ years life experience there, I’ve found it difficult to adjust to the delayed Spring here even though this is where I spent the first 20 years of my life.

As a child, I grew up to the various “Winters” of Spring.

  1. Pear tree winter
  2. Redbud winter
  3. Dogwood winter
  4. Locust winter
  5. Blackberry winter

The temperature would rise to Spring-like warmth and various plants would break bud, show color and then a cold snap would hit and we would experience Winter again for several days.

This year the Winters of Spring have been delayed.  And, so has Spring’s floral parade.

Redbud trees should have bloomed weeks ago. Dogwoods should be in regal attire by now.  But, Redbuds are experiencing their first blush as Dogwood buds swell with promise.

Pear Winter has come and gone.  Pear trees, still bearing white blossoms, are showing green as new leaves begin their growth.

Redbud winter can be checked off the list and this next week of Springtime warmth will prompt a quick response in the remaining actors in Spring’s display.

If the rain holds long enough and the ground drys fast enough, I’ll get the garden tilled this week, or next, and begin working it in preparation for planting.  Some things can go into the ground after Dogwoods bloom.  Other things, like tender tomatoes, will wait until Blackberry winter passes.

Moving is an adjustment on all counts – and even more so when so much of who you are and what you do is in tune with where you are in the seasons of the year.  For the past 30+ years I’ve experienced Spring’s arrival by the end of February and planting season by the first of April.  “Easter Freeze” was considered the last opportunity for a wintery snap that could threaten tender growth – that is, as long as Easter came in March and didn’t wait until April.

If I’m in tune with the seasons, I’m in tune with life – and find that when my rhythm matches that of nature around me, I’m happiest and most productive.

I’ve clicked off Redbud winter and am watching the local Dogwoods for color.  And, I’m beginning preparations for the period of growth ahead.  I want to move with nature, in sync, in harmony, enjoying the rhythm of life and the living of it.