Just one good snow or ice storm or really cold day can get people grumbling about winter. Sure, we had a lovely Michigan fall. In every conversation about the weather, everyone — family, friends, neighbors and shop holders– agreed that this autumn was one of the longest, mildest and prettiest in recent memory. True winter arrived this week, however, bringing a dump of snow, icy roads, and school closures– and accompanying complaints.
Winter transforms the garden too. Snow and ice bring out textures and shadows we don’t normally see. Wintertime gives gardens and gardeners a much needed rest period, although we can keep pretty busy with planning and dreaming.
Winter also provides plants with vernalization, which is a requirement for some species. Vernalization is a physiological process in some plants where the flowers, or sometimes the seeds, must go through a prolonged period of cold in order to blossom or germinate in the spring. The amount of cold required by a plant is measured in chill hours. (If I read this chart correctly, we get about 1400 chill hours annually in our area– brr!) In terms of species of fruit trees, apples have the highest chill requirements, followed by apricots and peaches. Nuts trees and berry bushes also have varying chilling requirements.
So what’s a little cold then, if it means we get to grow apples and peaches and berries. I’ll put on a sweater and settle in with my seed catalogs and garden plans and think about spring.