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Thursday, April 24, 2014

FOUR WINTERS

  
Cold snap
Kentucky


About two weeks ago a friend who is a native Kentuckian and gardener, Sue Tribble, sent me an email that talked of four different kinds of winters. 

These were folklore winters whose names that have been passed down through generations of Kentuckians. I was unfamiliar with this concept.

I gathered that the word winter in the folklore names meant cold snaps produced with the blooming of redbud, locust, dogwood, or blackberries.  Their blooming being a signal to the gardener that it is possibly safe to start planting.   Below is her explanation. 



"About Winters -- I learned my knowledge of the Winters & many other things from my Grandmother. She was THE gardener! Could grow beans under a rock..and there is a story to that..for another time. You know how Mar. gives us hope for some warm weather but may have snow by night. April comes & the younger generation rush out to buy flowers & garden plants..just because it's warm today & the garden centers have a nice display. Grannie would just shake her head & mumble something about ''they have more money than sense''! She would never put anything out more than cabbage & onions before the first week of May.

The Winters she (my grandmother) talked about was Redbud Winter, which is beginning to bloom right now They grow wild. . . .





Redbud blooming
Kentucky


There is a Dog Winter-- that's when the dogwood blooms. Locust Winter..again just when the locust blooms.The last one to bloom is Blackberries..that usually is the coldest Winter but after it blooms you are safe to plant.

Right or wrong..that's what I do. Mainly because Granny knew a lot about everything & I always think of her as I plant. She also planted & lived her daily life ''by the sign''..."



My interest in the folklore behind the four winters was further explained by Daves Garden as follows.


" Dogwood Winter occurs about the time the dogwoods bloom, usually between mid-April and mid-May, varying from year to year. In some areas, Blackberry Winter and Dogwood Winter occur at the same time, while those living two or three states away may experience two distinct, separate cold snaps. Dogwood Winter, like most of the "winters" mentioned here, 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 oldtimers knew it usually happens when the dogwoods (Cornus florida or Cornus nuttallii) 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. Native Americans watched for the dogwood blooms as the sign to begin planting corn and other crops. Oldtimers also knew that blackberries (Rubus fruticosus) 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.[1] In some areas, a late cold snap occurs with the blooming of the locust trees (Robinia pseudoacacia) usually before the dogwoods bloom or the redbuds (Cercis canadensis). 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 Buster (my neighbor and folklore old-timer), Locust Winter generally isn't as long or cold as Blackberry Winter. Here at my elevation, 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 are having a Redbud Winter right now as I write this (April 6, 2009). Yesterday I worked in the garden in a sleeveless shirt, and this evening it is snowing. I noticed on the way to the store this afternoon that the redbuds are starting to bloom! There's also Linsey-Woolsey Britches Winter, a term not used so much anymore, and then the last gasp of cold weather is Whippoorwill Winter. Linsey-Woolsey Britches Winter was once a popular term, back when winter clothing was homespun of linen/wool, and winters were harsher. It was the last time in spring that you'd need "long johns" before trading them for short sleeves, and it usually came about the time of Blackberry Winter. However, I never read how one would know Linsey-Woolsey Britches Winter if you lived where there were no dogwoods nor blackberries, except you'd be cold. The last named winter, Whippoorwill Winter, is actually a herald of warmer days coming to stay for the summer. The whippoorwill (Caprimulgus vociferus) 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 oldtimers are correct, I can expect two more cold snaps (Dogwood Winter and Blackberry Winter) in my area before it is safe to set out my tomato plants. Take a look at the trees blooming in your area with the late cold snaps and see if you can identify the cold snap by name!"


We have had a tough winter in many parts of the country so perhaps this little bit of folklore will help with getting your garden planted safe from cold snaps -- perhaps yet to come!

http://folkwaysnotebook.blogspot.com/




16 comments:

  1. Lost so much this winter and must replace many!

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    1. Tabor -- How unfortunate. Perhaps some are just getting a slow start because of the severe winter? Maybe a little wait and see might produce some you thought you lost? -- FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK.

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  2. Very interesting post, Barbara. Pretty photo too! We're definitely in our Dogwood Winter here. I'll be on the lookout for the blackberries now! I'm starting some posts from Lacamas Park over in Camas. Have you been there? The blue camas is blooming right now and it's absolutely breathtaking!

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    1. Melissa -- Oh thanks for the report of the blue camas in Lacamas Park. I will try and get there soon before they fade. Thanks for letting me know Melissa -- barbara

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  3. Your new picture is just wonderful.
    I had no trouble following along the seasons of winter. We keep an eye on the oak trees. When the leaves are as big as squirrel ears it's time to turn the garden and begin planting.

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    1. Joanne -- I know of the quote from my years of living in Michigan as a youngster, It is not surprising that we have this saying in common as MI is your neighbor. thanks for the comment on my header. Found this just outside a tiny little town in KY. -- barbara -- folkwaysnotebook.blogspot.com

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  4. Interesting post. In England the old farm workers used to talk of a "blackthorn winter" - that is when winter dragged on into the time when blackthorn started blooming.

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    1. John -- I am not familiar with the blackthorn plant -- will look it up. I love old quotes about gardening. Notice the quote above by Joanne about the squirrel's ears. -- thanks -- barbara
      folkwaysnotebook.blogspot.com

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  5. One must live close to the trees and the forests to truly observe there "winters". The lore is fascinating and I'm glad it's not being lost.
    Where I live people have planted a lot of kousa dogwoods -- a very different (Japanese) relative of the native dogwood, showier but not so delicately lovely We have hardly any redwoods which are so dainty and beautiful.

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    1. Absolutely -- and having retained a diverse population of gardeners that still knows the old lore. I heard quite a few years ago that the native dogwoods are in decline. Perhaps that is why the Japanese dogwoods are being planted in your area. When I lived in Kentucky I had woods all around me. Up on the hill, in my woods,was a beautiful old grandmother native dogwood that bloomed full with lovely white blooms every year. It was the only large dogwood I had in my woods near my home. thanks -- barbara -- FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK

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  6. Interesting information. I think folks would fare well if they would indeed wait and watch. Everyone is in such a hurry these days. "Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished." (Lao Tzu) Have a great weekend. Tammy

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    1. Tammy -- Like your quote, " Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished." I am writing this quote by Lao Tzu in my "Quotes" notebook reserved for special sayings. thanks -- wishing you a good weekend too -- barbara -- FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK.

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  7. This is the kind of local lore that gets lost with all our moving around. I do know that it is madness to plant anything before the middle of May where you live, although climate change may be affecting that.
    I really enjoyed reading this!

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    1. Hattie -- A life goes through so many phases. For several years I was not only a gardener but taught adult ed gardening classes plus sold my flowers at a local Saturday farmers market. Now I live in an apartment with no garden space. But that will change eventually -- hopefully. Still looking for a different place to live to plant some sunflowers. -- thanks -- barbara -- FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK

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  8. We had the dogwood winter, alas. Am really hoping not to have blackberry winter.

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    1. Keeping my fingers crossed that you do not have the blackberry winter -- thanks barbara -- FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK

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