Life in Riverton: A February warm spell

February 5, 2012



Carmelitta Tiffany



It was a glorious day here today, Saturday, Feb. 4 – one that would have made the groundhog really confused. I actually got a bit sunburned by staying outside for the majority of the afternoon, trimming roses and cleaning up the yard. A coat was too heavy for me, so I pulled on my Riverton Fire Dept. hoodie and got to work.


Many people are missing the normal hip-deep snow that usually pervades Riverton this time of year, but I take each day as it comes, making good use of nice days to get outside and give the dogs and myself a little exercise and fresh air. A walk was sort of out of the question today, though, because the wet ground and road made traveling by foot a challenge. So we stuck around the yard and finished the yardwork that I had not accomplished in the fall.



Trees are budding

After rooting around in my flower gardens, and a half-dozen trips past my lilac bush with wheelbarrows full of leaves, branches and such, I noticed that there are sprouts of all kinds coming up – my tulips, irises, and even my lilacs are being fooled by the unseasonable warmth and sunshine. I was concerned about them being damaged by the freezing temperatures that are sure to come our way before we see the end of winter.


So, being the concerned and somewhat inept gardener that I am, I “Googled” the situation, and found an article from a Minnesota television station regarding early budding of trees and bushes.


Jeff Gillman, a horticulturist with University of Minnesota Extension Service, tells us to not be concerned.


The trees are supposed to have buds. The trees have buds all winter long,” he added, noting that often they’re covered in ice or snow.


Lilacs often get a little green growth early in winter- so they can open early in the spring, so it’s not unusual to see bright green buds right now.


The first flesh is a bet by the tree… If they lose the bet, it’s not a big loss,” he said.


If they do “break bud”, which is the scientific term, they are spending their energy in that process, rather than making new growth, which can be damaged with a significant and extended freeze.


Rick Vuyst, from Fruitbasket Flowerland in Grand Rapids, likes to get out in this unseasonally warm weather and do a little pruning. With the trees completely bare, it gives a better view of any crossing branches that you may want to get rid of, especially watersprouts– branches that go straight up and will do no good this Spring and Summer.

As for bulbs, spring-blooming bulbs are very hardy and can withstand a fresh covering of snow over them after they’ve begun to put up shoots. Rick recommends you step on them and push them back in the ground, it will help them survive the rest of the winter still to come.


So, as long as we won’t have a long-term warming and then a drastic deep freeze, the plants will survive.


Another risk with the warm winter is this year’s maple syrup production.


Larry Haigh, president of the Michigan Maple Syrup Association, says he’s “not overly optimistic” about a bumper crop. Michigan production could be the lowest since 44,000 gallons in 2000. Last year was superb with 123,000 gallons. 


Haigh says most producers have syrup remaining from 2011. 


With more frost, it’s not too late to have a decent season. But Haigh notes that sap will turn bitter when the trees produce buds.


So, I suppose I should be thankful for the nice weather this weekend, but hope for colder weather to come soon. I would sure miss maple syrup – one of nature’s purest gifts to the palate.


So there you go, another idyllic week of Life in Riverton.


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