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SCV False spring lures forth blossoms, shoots

As drought endangers mature trees, early blooms signal freeze danger

Posted: January 22, 2014 6:58 p.m.
Updated: January 22, 2014 6:58 p.m.

Brent Green examines the early buds and flowers on the almond trees at Green Landscape Nursery in Valencia on Wednesday. Signal photo by Dan Watson

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It's not just dry. It's hot.

While House Speaker John Boehner toured a dusty field outside Bakersfield on Wednesday and declared his support for California drought-relief legislation, temperatures rose to 83 degrees in the Santa Clarita Valley and matched that high in Monterey — the hottest January day in that coastal city since 1931.

Tuesday’s high of 84 in Camarillo matched the record high in that beach city.

The prolonged sunny, warm winter is creating a false spring — prompting flowers to pop out early on fruit trees and perennials to get an early start on their springtime behavior.

“They’re awakened by light and heat,” said longtime local landscape contractor and nurseryman Richard Green.

“Roses are starting to leaf out heavily — we’re seeing 20 percent emergence already. They’re really early. Generally they would come out when it’s mild or pretty mild,” Green said.

The false early spring — the season actually begins March 20 — could just mean it’s time to tend to the garden already. But it also could spell disaster if it’s followed by a hard freeze, Green said. Tender young shoots can be heavily damaged in a late freeze.

However, more danger to the garden may be posed by the drought than by a false early spring.

California gardeners don’t expect to do much watering during the winter, Green noted, and during a two-year drought several years ago, he recalled, he failed to water his birch trees.

“I lost two of my birch trees in that drought,” Green said. “I didn’t augment-water in the wintertime.”

“Try to deep water on almost a weekly basis,” he advised. Mature trees — especially birches and native oaks — need to be watered during a particularly dry winter. “This is the time they drink,” he said.

“We make a big investment in our trees,” he said. “Don’t let your trees take a fatal shot or near-fatal shot.”

While some reports indicate bears have been lured out of hibernation early by the sunshine and warm weather, the Santa Clarita Valley’s own version of Punxsutawney Phil, Pennsylvania’s famed spring-predicting groundhog, hasn’t been fooled at all, reports Russell Kimura, the superintendent of Placerita Canyon Nature Center and Natural Area.

“He’s sound asleep,” Kimura said of Turbo the tortoise, one of the center’s many native residents. “He needs a few more months of rest.”



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