Burnett: Warm start to winter keeps local gardeners guessing

There are some plusses as well as some negatives to these milder winters when it comes to gardening.

  • Fri Nov 25th, 2016 5:00am
  • Life

I can’t believe I still have some dahlias blooming in my garden in mid-November.

According to the short-term forecast, it looks like the mild weather is here for at least a few more days and possibly longer.

We oldtimers can all remember much cooler temperatures at this time of year and overall colder winters in the Okanagan Valley.

Just for the record the low temperature for November in 1961 was -12.8 C 1963 was -12.2 C, 1967 was -10 C and the years in between registered lows of at least -5 C.

In looking through the records, it was difficult to find an October with only a degree of frost which is what we experienced last month.

There are some plusses as well as some negatives to these milder winters when it comes to gardening.

On the plus side, we can try growing some plant material which would normally not make it through the winter.

For instance, I have an English Laurel zone 6-8 in my garden as well as an evergreen Magnolia zone 6-8 and an Aucuba japonica zone 7-9, any of which I would never even attempted to grow in the old days of cold winters.

The Sequoiadendron giganteum or giant Sequoia zone 6-7 would never be considered in the past but those beautiful specimens at Kelowna Golf and Country Club that have been there for at least 20 years are contrary to that thinking.

More recently, I spotted a Monkey Puzzle tree in down town Kelowna that has obviously been in that location for a number of years according to its size.

I have taken a picture of it and waiting to hear from the owner as to a little history behind it.

So I guess we may have to change our thinking on just what hardiness zone we have here in the Central Okanagan in particular areas close to the big lake.

Traditionally, I have always believed we are stuck in a solid zone 5, or perhaps a zone 5a, which means the temperature won’t drop below -20 C.

But after doing a little research, to my surprise I find the Kelowna area is listed much warmer—Zone 6 and 6a quite frequently and I even found one listing us zone 7 which I think even with this warming trend is a bit of a stretch.

On the negative side of these warming winter temperatures, besides the whole concern with global climate change might be the ability for certain insects and diseases to overwinter unharmed and the lack of a quality snowpack in the mountains, which after all helps us garden in this desert valley.

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As I have mentioned previously, I am organizing another trip to the UK for May 18 to 31, 2017.

An information session for my UK trip is Wednesday Nov. 30, 6 p.m., at Marlin Travel, 110-437 Glenmore Rd. Call 250-868-2540 or email jamie.powers@marlintravel.ca to reserve a seat.