One of my favorite weather-related quotes is, "Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it." I always thought Mark Twain said that, but learned recently that the rightful owner was Charles Dudley Warner, an editor of the Hartford Courant of Connecticut and a friend of Samuel Clemens. Even quotes about the weather are fickle things.
Our winter temperature roller-coaster ride in southwest Ohio, as well as much of the rest of Ohio, has produced many highly unscientific reports of impacts on trees, shrubs, and motorcycle owners. I'm adding to the body of questionable observations using this confirmed Twain quote as cover, "Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please."
The fact is we in the southwest part of Ohio experienced a January that was 6.7F above normal. Some readers may take exception to my use of the term "normal." However, I'm citing National Weather Service data where "normal" is sprinkled throughout the climate reports, although I have little personal experience with the term. I'm also using the term "average" which I am. We had 21 days with above average high temperatures in January; 10 days were at least 15F above average.
February was another unusually warm winter month with temperatures 9.5F above normal. We saw 21 days with above average high temperatures - as much as 28F above average - and a chain of days from the 17th through the 24th where high temperatures topped 64F each day; it reached 78F on the 24th. I reported several observations of the effects of this unusually warm winter weather in a BYGL Alert sent on February 24 (see "Spring-Like Conditions and a Predicted Egg Hatch of Eastern Tent Caterpillars.")
The bottom dropped out of our balmy weather in early March. Thus far, we've had 14 days with below average high temperatures. We also experienced a string of days from March 10th through the 19th with daily low temperatures dipping to as much as -17F below average; we saw 19F on the Ides of March and 16F the day after. Of course, we are now experiencing more moderate temperatures and plants are responding. It's a good time to assess the impact of our winter temperature roller-coaster ride.
The following are some highly unscientific observations. The unusually high temperatures in February stimulated bloom for a few early-blooming magnolias and the freezing temperatures put the kibosh on a beautiful, lengthy magnolia display in much of southwest Ohio. However, we can't paint with a broad brush. Some magnolias are eking out a bloom display albeit a bit muted.
Forsythia has been a complete surprise. We saw blooms at the end of February, but some plants are still blooming! Cherries are another surprise; our weeping cherries appear to have been largely untouched. I'm also seeing normal bloom buds rising on Canada red chokecherry; at least on trees that are not being hammered by black knot. Redbuds appear to have missed the freeze damage altogether; I'm seeing plenty of undamaged bloom buds showing color.
I took pictures of several Callery pears in full bloom on March 9th and hoped the following days of freezing temperatures would blast the blooms to reduce fruit production; hope springs eternal. Alas, I'm looking out my window right now at a pear loaded with bloom. There was some damage, but not enough to thwart the continued spread of this now invasive tree. New growth on Knock Out roses was damaged in some locations in southwest Ohio including in the Boggscape. I took pictures of tender new growth on my Knock Outs on February 24. As you can see by the photo below, some of that new growth was knocked out by the freezing temperatures in early March.
The bottom line is that I've been very surprised at the relatively limited amount of plant damage revealed thus far in southwest Ohio. I welcome your observations because I recognize my report is based on a very limited number of observations. Also, with the risk for a return of damaging freezing temperatures, the jury is still out. As Mark Twain actually said, "Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get."