Winter Weather - Feb 7, 2012
by Mark Konlock, Director of Horticulture, Green Bay Botanical Garden
Has this winter made you wonder about the weather? It sure has been mild – well at least until recently. It kind of makes you envious of southern climates - to quote the movie Brokeback Mountain, “It could be like this always.” I recently learned about the Arctic Oscillation from Ashley Wolf, a meteorologist with the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration in Green Bay. This is one explanation for our recent mild weather. In essence, what happens is high pressure in the mid latitudes and low pressure in the arctic regions keeps cold air north, giving us a warmer winter. For more a more detailed explanation, click here. Over the last number of years some organizations have been updating maps with the latest climatological data. Check out the 2006 Arbor Day Foundation map where they updated the 1990 USDA hardiness zone map with more recent data. Use the play function to see the changes in average annual minimum temperatures.
At GBBG, we like to push the envelope by trying new plants and have been using zone 5 plants for the last 7 years. Some plants like Eremurus (foxtail lily), Dracunculus (dragon flower), and Acanthus (bear’s breeches) we mulch with about 9 inches of woodchips after the ground freezes to give them a little extra help through their first winter. Plants like Asimina (pawpaw) and other woody ornamentals are sited in areas where they are protected from vicious northwest winter winds as well as make sure they are not in areas where frost pools up in the spring time.
One lesson I learned from our recently retired gardener, Linda Patton, is to take the weather as it comes. When I was getting excited one day a number of years ago, I came back to my desk to see a quote by Lao Tzu written out by Linda on my desk. I have it taped up above my calendar and it reads, “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” Amen to that!