Experts tackle readers’ garden questions.
Q: My mom’s flowering dogwood tree is in bloom. We certainly don’t remember this ever happening in October before, and I wanted to mention it. Her rhododendron is blooming also, but as we both have azaleas that occasionally flower in the fall, that isn’t as unusual. She lives in Arden Arcade, I’m in El Dorado Hills.
El Dorado Hills
Garden writer Debbie Arrington: Blame the weather. Plants are as mixed up as our wardrobe planning. One week, temperatures finally begin to feel like fall. The next, it’s back in the 80s and seems like summer.
Those warm days following cooler weather can fool a temperature-sensitive plant, too. That’s why many spring bulbs are sprouting now – months ahead of schedule.
How do you get a daffodil back on schedule? UC master gardener Ellie Cary suggests cutting off the green tops of these early risers and forcing them back to sleep. This works best if only the leaves are showing and not the bloom stem.
According to foresters, fall blooming happens occasionally with dogwoods due to the amount of sunlight, not necessarily its warmth.
Dogwoods, which usually bloom in March or April, can be fooled by the length of September or October days, say tree experts. The amount of sunlight in fall is the same as corresponding spring days. For example, Sept. 25 and March 16 both have 12 hours of daylight in Sacramento. That similar day length can trigger bloom.
This mostly happens in immature dogwoods. But some dogwood varieties – such as Pacific dogwood (Cornus nuttallii) – are more likely to have a second fall bloom, especially if weather conditions are right, according to UC master gardeners.
If dogwoods, azaleas, rhododendrons or other spring-blooming trees and shrubs jump the calendar, they usually will flower again in spring during their regular bloom time. But their display may not be as large as years when they didn’t get fooled by fall.
Bee garden writer Debbie Arrington is a consulting rosarian and lifelong gardener. Call her at 916-321-1075. Follow her on Twitter @debarrington.
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