Friday, January 27, 2012

Breaking News: North oddly hospitable to plants!

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My usual reactions whilst reading the newspaper, though always thoughtful and apropos, range from a smirk, snort (of derision or laughter, your choice), eye roll, to your everyday exclamation of “we’re doomed!”  Today however, I was jolted from my repertoire of pat emotions and expressions by a shocking article in our local paper, the Anchorage Daily News.

The article, written by a Mr. Seth Borenstein of the AP, was a fascinating quarter page entitled, “Updated planting zones reflect warmer reality.”  What drew me in was the subtitle or whatever they call that thing in large font under the title, “USDA: More southerly vegetation has found north oddly hospitable.”  Now you get to choose what I found shocking.  What fun!

Choice A: Our daily paper has printed an article concerning gardening, in section A no less.  We are treated to a once-weekly garden column and, in my opinion, little other local coverage of that delightful hobby that ensnares approximately 31% of Americans.  Wait a minute, on second thought, that might be the percentage that regularly use expletives.  I’ve read 61% of persons in the USA garden, a figure that was not (I’d be willing to bet a six-pack of marigolds) gathered in Alaska.  61% of Alaskans have blue tarps but only 21% garden, according to the numbers I just made up.

Choice B: The north is termed oddly hospitable.  Why can’t we be just hospitable, why must we be odd?  A few plants do make their home here in the north country sans global warming: I can think of at least 4 offhand.  Oh, wait, never mind, that cherry tree did die after all.

Choice C: A dear man, one professor Richard Primack, said (and I must quote this in it’s entirety, too shocking) that “people who grow plants are well aware of the fact that temperatures have gotten more mild throughout the year, particularly in the wintertime (interruption by me: the temperature has been subzero almost every day of January. I am currently swaddled in blankets and a turtleneck under a thick wool sweater with ugly brown slippers to complete my indoor survival outfit.  And am still cold.  But who am I to complain, yesterday I wore my down jacket and hat in the house.  For goodness sake, prof, we’re usually in the twenties this time of year. Now back to the quote where he goes on to rub it in my face.) “There’s a lot of things you can grow now that you couldn’t grow before.” Yes, like false hopes and shattered dreams and that blasted orange Heuchera.  Whoops, not the Heuchera.  I’m waiting for that “warmer reality,” Dr. Primack.  Anytime now.

Choice D: The government actually updated the climate zones.  To give you an idea just how often this happens, the old map is from 1990.  One really terrific feature of the new map is “for the first time [it] include[s] more detailed factors such as prevailing winds, the presence of nearby bodies of water, the slope of the land, and the way cities are hotter than suburbs and rural areas.” Bravo!

Now that you’ve made your choice, I urge you to hotfoot it over to the USDA’s website and check out your zone.  I did just that and found myself to be in zone 6.  Just kidding, I only wish I was in zone 6. I’m still zone 4b. Wait, that is warmer!  Still, Alaska looks pretty cold according to the map and my current reality.  I’m waiting, Prof Primack, waiting for that “warmer reality”. Go ahead.  Anytime now.  Still waiting…. 

Are you enjoying a warmer reality? Oddly hospitable, perhaps?


Lisa at Greenbow said...

It is warmer here. This winter is especially warm. Oddly warm if you will. My area hasn't changed all that much on the map. If every winter was like this winter this could be considered zone 7b. However this area can also slip up to zone 5a during some winters. I have been reading about Anchorage's cold and snow. Brrrr Try to stay warm.

biobabbler said...

What I'd heard, at least earlier this year, is that a freaky change in wind pattern (what, the jet stream, was it?) is why YOU guys have been freezing your Alaskan butts off and we are STUCK in fall-weather purgatory. The rainless kind of fall. November, December, January--and Feb. is nigh.

Apparently normally we get some of your winter cold/wind/precip so we actually get WINTER. And then you don't have to have ALL of the winter for the west concentrated in your very own frozen state.

At least that's what I hear. I'm down here just getting quietly more and more freaked out that we don't have WINTER this year.

So sorry you're having to be all the winter brave for the entire western continental U.S. AND AK. =(

Christine B. said...

@Lisa at GreenbowWell, Alaska is usually about 10 years behind every trend, so I guess the winter of 2021-2022 we will all be enjoying the heat wave that's at your place right now.

Alternatively, I will have moved to Hawaii.


Christine B. said...

@biobabblerThat makes sense. We have everyone's winter this year. Now I know how people in Fairbanks (AK) feel every winter.

Boo, hiss to the jet stream.


Sue@G.L. Allotments said...

I'm waiting for the warming too - granted this year has been mild over winter but last year!! It just seems we still have dips and troughs as we have always done!

BY the way I meant to ask when you mentioned chasing bears in your dressing gown - which sort of bears were they?

Elephant's Eye said...

Over on G+ is Dee in Fairbanks. She posts the temperature each day, just to petrify us!

Christine B. said...

@Sue@G.L. AllotmentsWe must be in the mother of all troughs.

And it was a black bear. For the brown bears I cinch my bathrobe extra tightly and put my track shoes on beforehand.

No polar bears yet. But if I see one in the rubbish bin, I'll let him have it.


Christine B. said...

@Elephant's EyeNo matter how bad it is in my hometown, it's always colder in Fairbanks. Which would explain why I haven't visited in many years.

On the upside, they do have some of the warmest summers in Alaska (which means days over 70 F). Yes, I think a summer visit would do quite nicely....


Marguerite said...

You know I've heard similar chattering in my part of the world about changing zones but I don't trust that bit of gossip one bit. Sure the winter's been warmer this year but then we kinda missed out on summer so it's a bit of a non-climate these days. I'm fully expecting to lose more plants than normal this year due to the lack of snow cover and the blasted wind.

Birds, Bees, Berries, and Blooms said...

I'm with you we have had more snow here the last 3 years and the last two have been way colder. They have me as a zone 5. What a hoot. Tell that to my zone 4 roses that frozes. Try a 3 there USDA. Thats all that lives anyway. As always I enjoy your blog! I too am bundled in a sweater, knitted boots, and a heavy blanket.

Christine B. said...

@MargueriteSummer is what makes living in Alaska bearable. But not so much, lately. Last summer, rain, clouds, nothing above about 65F. Bleh! If I must endure below freezing, temps above 70F for a month seems only fair.

But it seems fated I will be cheated out of my great summer once again. An aquaintance postulated that with so much snow accumulation this winter we will be having a bumper crop of mosquitos come summer.

From one non-climate to another,


Christine B. said...

@Birds, Bees, Berries, and BloomsWow, a USDA zone 5 for an actual zone 3. Isn't that like vanity sizing for women's clothing? Has the USDA invented vanity zoning?!

Glad to hear I'm not alone with the indoor bundling. Our furnace couldn't keep up with heating our house with an outside temp at 7 below yesterday and we were at about 67 indoors. Nothing to cry about, but a little chilly for me!



Perhaps some places are actually warmer. Here in western Oregon it's winter as usual. In fact the past several winters have been colder than normal and even last summer was cooler than previous summers.

I have to wonder about the claim that the powers that be took into account the prevailing winds, etc. Hooey. My Zone didn't change one iota. It looked like they took peanut butter and slathered it all up and down the Willamette Valley. It's even LESS detailed now. But what do I know? Unfortunately it's still cold in Alaska and this means the world isn't going to end any time soon, right?

Becky said...

Your blog has been chosen by me for the for the Versatile Blogger award. I think your blog is special. I have linked to you on my “ And the Award Goes to...” post. If you want to find out how this all works go to the post on Plants and Stones and click on Donna.

Christine B. said...

@GRACE PETERSONIf they used PB on the Williamette Valley, then they used grape jelly mixed with antifreeze on southcentral Alaska.

The world will indeed end soon, Grace. Curbside recycling has just been introduced for my street, which as you know is one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. At least in Alaska.

I'm not sure who the other three may be (or indeed, if there were in fact four to begin with) but I'm sure to think up a ridiculous blog about it.


Christine B. said...

@BeckyThanks, lady! I'm always pleasantly surprised to get any kind of award, other than the "It's So Cold, Why Do They Bother Gardening" Blog Award, the "Garden Blog that Occasionally Mentions Gardening" statuette, and the coveted "Goofing Off in the Garden" medallion. I think I have those wrapped up.



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