Spring can be an unpredictable time of year, with warm, summer-like conditions one day and snow the next. It’s easy to get lulled into a false sense of security that the weather will remain hospitable when — WHAM! — a freak cold snap hits and reminds you that winter only ended a few weeks ago. Much like Indian summer — a period of unseasonable warmth in the middle of autumn — these periods of springtime cold have a name. Actually, they have several names. The “little winters” in the middle of spring are called variously Dogwood Winter, Blackberry Winter, Locust Winter, Whippoorwill Winter, Redbud Winter, and a few other regional variations. Dogwood Winter is a somewhat predictable weather event of the thermal currents making a short reversal of direction, bringing a few days or even a week of cold weather, sometimes with frost or snow and potential damage to garden plants. Weather forecasters know it is likely to occur, but it’s not predictable enough to say on what day. The old-timers knew it usually happens when the dogwoods are in bloom. With the possibility of frost happening during Dogwood Winter, they also knew to wait until after the dogwood bloomed to plant tender vegetables and annuals. As of this writing, our Dogwoods haven’t bloomed yet!. Old-timers also knew that blackberries need a cold snap to set buds on the blackberry canes, so as sure as night follows day, there will be a cold snap when the blackberries bloom, called Blackberry Winter. It comes with a somewhat less severe return of a continental polar air mass after the maritime tropical air masses have begun to dominate the weather. In some areas, a late cold snap occurs with the blooming of the locust trees usually before the dogwoods bloom or the redbuds. So you have Locust Winter, and Redbud Winter happening after the first flush of warm spring days and before Dogwood Winter and Blackberry Winter. According to folklore and the old-timers, Locust Winter generally isn’t as long or cold as Blackberry Winter. The redbuds bloom before the dogwoods, and the blackberries bloom after the dogwoods (in most years), so we get to have Redbud Winter, Dogwood Winter, and then a Blackberry winter. As a matter of fact, we just had a Redbud Winter. The last named winter, Whippoorwill Winter, is actually a herald of warmer days coming to stay for the summer. The whippoorwill migrates from wintering in Mexico to their summer range farther north in late May to early June. Whippoorwill Winter not as cold as the other “winters” but still a bit of cold snap lest we forget. If the old-timers are correct, we can expect two more cold snaps (Dogwood Winter and Blackberry Winter) in our area before it is safe to set out our tomato plants. Remember: these 3 or 4 spring winters are a great time to explore our local real estate! Views are awesome, creeks and waterfalls are running, and the animals are just beginning to show themselves, especially our turkeys and deer! So plan a trip to the area and find that perfect vacation, retirement, or rental home!
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