Warm weather means early growth in Black Mountain

Barbara Hootman

Some trees and shrubs are blooming when they shouldn’t, and weeds are on the move like it is spring.

Joyce Ackerman of Black Mountain has a Lenten rose, or Hellebores, in bloom.

“It shouldn’t bloom until March,” she said. “This too warm weather is confusing to plants and people, and it isn’t healthy.”

Jeff Seitz, owner of Appalachian Creek Nursery and Landscape in Swannanoa, said that when he returned from an out-of-town Christmas trip, his sister’s blueberry bushes were blooming and putting out new growth.

“When it turns cold, they will freeze,” he said. “It probably won’t kill the bushes but it will ruin the fruit buds, and will probably stunt the bushes’ growth. Anything flushing (putting out new growth) right now will get hurt by a freeze.”

Seitz says the azaleas and rhododendrons that bloomed in Dec. will not bloom again in spring.

“Both azaleas and rhododendrons set buds for the next season’s blooms in August,” he said. “They have to go through the cycle of resetting buds again before they bloom. Shrubs and trees blooming too early means a less colorful spring. If we get a late spring freeze, which is common here, it means even less color in the spring.”

Most spring-flowering shrubs, trees and even bulbs, require a cold-weather dormancy period to bloom properly and at the right time. Trees need about three months of cold to produce a flush of blossoms.

“We could still get the cold weather that trees and shrubs need, but projected weather forecast don’t look like we will,” Seitz said.

Many Valley gardeners are seeing daffodil blades up at least 6 inches. It is usually late February or early March before they bloom.

“If cold weather arrives soon, it will retard the bulbs’ growth and flower buds from developing,” Seitz said. “They will likely produce flowers on schedule, but if the blossom is showing and hasn’t opened yet, they won’t bloom again in the spring. Just about everything blooming now will not bloom again in the spring. The spring-flowering trees, shrubs and bulbs just get one shot every year to bloom.”

Libba Fairleigh of the Black Mountain Beautification Committee was out last week weeding around the shrubs in Town Square.

“It look so bad to have these weeds showing up that I had to pull them out,” she said. “I’ve never had to weed in the winter in Black Mountain before. “The shrubs are setting buds and putting on new growth, and that isn’t good. Also we usually put out pre-emergent (herbicide) to control weeds in March, but it is looking like we need to do that now.”

Ackerman, a member of the beautification committee helping Fairleigh weed in Town Square, said her hopes are that the area will not suffer a hard freeze in the spring that would kill what is left to bloom at the proper time.

Lyndell Noyes Brownell who was also helping with the weeding in Town Square was keeping a positive attitude.

“I think we will have an early spring, and there will still be blooms for us to enjoy,” she said.

Seitz recommends using a pre-emergent herbicide now to retard weed growth and reapplying it in May and in the fall.

“Gardeners need to be careful with pruning in the too warm temperatures,” he said. “Sap is already rising in trees like maples, and pruning will cause them to ‘bleed.’ (Prune) in late spring after a normal bloom cycle.”