Living dangerously?


What's the point of keeping forced tulips inside when it's 75 out—my patio could use the color.

It’s lucky that a greenhouse bursting with perennials in not close at hand, because who knows how crazy I might get this spring. Buffalo is balmy; so are most of the contiguous states. A weather map I found here shows thousands of high temperature records, most in the Midwest and Northeast. These are fun times for weather geeks; I have particularly enjoyed reading Paul Douglas’s Minneapolis Star-Tribune blog, which just goes on and on with weather facts and related trivia. There is plenty of serious stuff, like warnings about pine beetles, and plenty of fun stuff, like pictures of SUVs crashing through the ice.       

Unfortunately, there’s not much I can do to exploit this. I did find the first violas of the season, which I’ve inserted into big pots already planted with tulips. Usually violas or pansies don’t make an appearance here until mid-April and usually the big pots of tulips don’t get dragged out of the garage until early April. Usually.

Buffalo had its biggest crowd ever for Sunday's St.Pat's parade.

I’ve also planted some lilies and dahlias (using the Eleanor Perenyi method for the latter), done some spring clean-up, and watched as the hydrangea buds (which I didn’t bother to protect this winter) started showing green weeks ahead of their usual time.

It seems … odd. I’m getting that out-of-time seasonal dysfunction feeling. It’s enjoyable to bask in a March heat wave. It’s also innately disturbing.

Previous articleGood Taste, White Flower Farm Style, versus Good Taste, Kitchen Style
Next articleWhat I was tempted to buy at the Philly Flower Show
Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. Literally. What will the bugs do this summer because of this spring?

    People are already staying inside because of ticks & mosquito issues.

    Love the parade pic.

    Garden & Be Well, Tara

  2. I’ve been re-reading Mirabel Osler recently. Love her. But she disses dahlias as unnatural and overblown. Exactly why I like them!

    What is the Eleanor Perenyi method? (Love her too but don’t remember a method.)

  3. This morning I saw a magnolia coming into bloom. That’s two months early for my area (Ontario). I saw my first bee of the year in January. The list goes on and on. The longer this warm spell continues, the more disturbed I feel.

    On another note, I love that tulip photo.

  4. Count me in as excited, and extremely disturbed. We should be up to our knees in slush right now (and happy about it), but instead I’m planting my lily bulbs. My poor garden centre had a sale on evergreens, so I bought some junipers, hemlocks and cedars and was out planting them yesterday. This is nuts. It will be interesting to see what the impacts are of this weather. Diseases that are normally killed off because of the cold, insects that are normally killed off, baby birds that aren’t fed because their normal food hasn’t hatched yet because they depend on length of day not temperature. Yikes. And then I’m terrified of the cold snap that still could come and kill off everything that shouldn’t be out yet.

  5. Stinkbugs are already out and making mischief in my yard/house. I’ve also got my supply of sheets and blankets ready for the inevitable late frost that will hit my apples and hydrangeas. This weather’s been great for my getting my Little Gremlins outside and burning off energy, but I agree, it’s got me a bit unsettled.

  6. I know what you mean, Elizabeth – I sat on my patio today and ate lunch in shorts, t-shirt and sandals. On the 19th of March. If this keeps up, my head will surely explode.

  7. If it snows tomorrow, it’s my fault. I planted most of my seeds this past weekend, including melons that are supposed to be planted at most 3 weeks before last frost date.

    I just couldn’t resist! How could I chance losing weeks of an extended growing season?

    I always pot my dahlias up in April (this year might be earlier). I’m in zone 5 and it gives them a head start. I wouldn’t see the dinner plates bloom if I didn’t start them early. I learned that from Scott Kunst at Old House Gardens.

  8. Timely post for me; I’m reading “Hot” right now, a book which describes in some detail the likely scenarios resulting in the next few decades from the climate change that’s happening right now (yeah, right now). There will be lots of adaptation and mitigating in our future (or there will be suffering), and I think farmers and gardeners will be at the forefront, noticing the changes and making changes.

  9. Elizabeth–I decided to try forcing hyacinths this winter because you said it never worked for you. Well, mine in pots all died. I think they can’t handle a solid freeze. Mine all had good roots but just turned to mush.

    However, I did put a couple in the fridge in a paper bag until January. Then I took them out and pushed them down in some soil in a pot on the kitchen windowsill. They rooted and bloomed beautifully.

  10. Thanks for the report! Well, that confirms what I thought. Mine from the root cellar work very well but in the pots in the garage, never. I think the bulbs are just too soft?

  11. I am really enjoying the crocus I planted in pots, many pots, in January.
    Coming later will be daffodils and tulips.
    Just letting you know that it’s never too late to plant your bulbs no matter what others say!
    While I enjoy the balmy – 70º – in zone 6a NY weather I, too, worry of what’s to come later…and the garden is a bit dry, too…but it’s still only March 19th!

  12. We have just enjoyed six days in a row of record highs (actually last Wednesday just tied the previous record.) It does get one worried what is in store for the summer. There are already ants overrunning our yard (and the kitchen.) A record number of snapdragons and semi-hardies survived the winter, and the butterfly bush did not die back to the ground. I anticipate a thoroughly “interesting” summer.

  13. Here in a Minneapolis suburb my species tulips are blooming. Killed a mosquito yesterday. I am very worried.

  14. John, those were purchased at a local nursery, Lockwood’s. They are some kind of upscale plastic and are ‘self-watering,” though I took out the inserts for that. I would advise you check their website–you can contact them from there I think.

  15. Elizabeth–I don’t get why the hyacinths die. The ground normally freezes a few feet down, right? So why do the hyacinths in the ground not die too?

    Anyway, I learned my lesson. Losing a couple dozen bulbs is too much. Next fall I’ll do the fridge and then pot method.

  16. Another dahlia tip: A farmer gave me a bunch of dahlias and told me to keep them in the ground year round. She advised me to put 6″ of straw on the ground above and around them each fall until spring. They survived year after year – zone 5 Ontario. Could have been my own good dumb luck but she had been doing it for years as well.

  17. I’m near Green Bay,WI and my forsythia is blooming. I don’t feel do bad about getting my garlic in late fall-better rake the straw off and see what they are doing. I wonder how early the morel mushrooms will be? Also heard that maple syrup will be short supply this year.

  18. Innately disturbing–that hit the nail on the head for me. So enjoyable…and yet…
    Here in the DC area we are about to get Dogwoods and Azaleas–a good month early.
    Innately disturbing, indeed. And unnerving…will there be a frost?

  19. We’ve been having freakishly warm weather here in Colorado as well and it’s kind of weird especially as March is one of our snowiest months. I’m not necessarily complaining, especially since the flowers are blooming, but it’s definitely weird!

Comments are closed.