Hey, What's with the White Stuff?

Yes, sir, that white stuff you see on the ground is snow! And yes, we did have a freeze on April 16. How unusual is that?

Well, not very. I could not remember a freeze this late in my three decade tenure in New York, so I decided to look up the records. Surprisingly, the first date on which the record low is NOT freezing is April 18 with a record low of just 36 degrees Fahrenheit set in 1983. And get this: there was a record low of 20 degrees on April 21, 1981. Imagine that, 20 degrees in late April!

1981 — not so very long ago — was an exceptionally cold year, setting the record lows on April 15, 16, 20, 21, 22, 25, and 26. (This is in Central Park, which has not been keeping records the longest.)

And by the way, my memory failed me — I did see a low of 30 degrees on April 23, 1989.

So what's the last date of a record freeze in New York City? April 27 set a record low of 32 degrees in 1956. I guess we're safe after that? I sure hope so.

 Snow and freezing weather in Riverside Park, NYC

Snow and freezing weather in Riverside Park, NYC

The End of the Yellows?

Isn't it interesting that so many of our showiest early bloomers are yellow? Winter aconite, witchhazel, daffodils, cornelian cherry, and now forsythia. Is this a biological phenomenon, or sociological?

In other words, does nature prefer yellow early bloomers — perhaps to attract a particular early pollinator, or pollinators — or is it we humans who prefer a bright, cheery yellow to shake off the winter blues, and we choose our plants accordingly?

Perhaps I'm imagining this color shift, but I think we are about to make a turn now to whites, pinks, and reds. Again, natural or human preference?

 Forsythia  (Forsythia  x intermedia)  blooming in Riverside Park at the bottom of the 103rd Street entrance.

Forsythia (Forsythia xintermedia) blooming in Riverside Park at the bottom of the 103rd Street entrance.

Bluebells Soon Will Ring

As we've finally reached 70 degrees, everything is rushing forth, so much coming into bloom at once. Here's one of my favorites, Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica), just starting to show some color. Contrary to their common name, the buds often begin as pink before shifting to a sky blue as the flowers open and mature.

 Virginia Bluebells pushing through the forest floor in Central Park.

Virginia Bluebells pushing through the forest floor in Central Park.

Who You Calling Yellow?

Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) duking it out with a witchhazel (Hamamelis sp.) to see which is more yellow.

The witchhazel in front might be 'Arnold Promise', but it seems a little late for that cultivar. The cornelian cherry behind is really a dogwood. Why it's called a cherry, I haven't a clue. Well, maybe it's the small red summer fruit?

 Witchhazel (front) and cornelian cherry (behind) in Carl Schurz Park, NYC.

Witchhazel (front) and cornelian cherry (behind) in Carl Schurz Park, NYC.

Silver Maple, Red Blossom

Usually, we plant maples for fall color, but the silver maple (Acer saccharinum) offers the first flush of tree color. That subtle veil of red you see amongst the forest branches is the silver maple whispering spring has arrived long before brassier cherries shout their colors forth.

 Silver maple blooming in Carl Schurz Park, NYC.

Silver maple blooming in Carl Schurz Park, NYC.

April Snow

What a wonderfully slow warm up we've had this spring. None of this hitting 80+ degrees in late March and forcing all the ephemerals into an early exit.

I don't know that I've seen snowdrops in April before, or winter aconite, but here we are a month after I first saw aconite in bloom and they're both still with us.

 Snowdrops and winter aconite still blooming in April in Riverside Park near 101st Street. 

Snowdrops and winter aconite still blooming in April in Riverside Park near 101st Street.