March 27, 2012

Hard Freeze Threatens Early Spring Blossoms



     It was a sunny and temperate winter…

                                                     …early spring blossoms abound…

     Now, on the sixth official day of spring—March 26, 2012, to be exact—the newspaper headline yells out ‘HIGH-IMPACT FREEZE’ DUE.****

     The crown in shades of yellow, shades of forsythia and daffodil, covers the greening of winter lawns that experienced little of the typical blankets of winter’s snow. White snowdrops are past their prime. They paved the way to blue, pink, and sometimes white shades of forget-me-nots. Fruit trees in the region are in full blossom (ours are just budding). Although I’m not receiving gardening magazines in the mail (we’ve moved so much the subscriptions don’t know where to find me), I’ve been thinking of summer gardening for two months.

     My fingers itch to dig into earth’s brown soil, to loosen it up, to plant seeds that will give way to new life. I unwisely purchased two bags of gladioli with hope that I will have ten rainbow hues from one bag, and ten listed to be a blue tropic hue—shown on the package as a shade of delicate purple—from the second bag.

     The fresh produce season has already begun with the use of fresh chives, a volunteer plant in our back yard. Whenever cooking something I step out and clip a few dark green stalks to add extra flavor.      

     I equally anticipate delicious eating produce grown on our property: green beans, lettuce, and Swiss chard. My husband Monte relishes the few pears and peaches we grow on our unkempt, unpruned trees—we must, he tells me, take better care of them. We have the name of a beekeeper for pollination this year. Last year he improved the pear crop by hand-pollinating the blossoms. Still, his results were somewhat whimpy. Hopefully the apple crop will improve, since we began pruning that tree last fall.

     Although fruit trees and flowers were fooled into early growth this year, the weather is not a joking matter. Fred McMullen, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Moon (PA), said there’s a significant chance of a “high impact freeze” tonight into Tuesday morning, with lows in the mid-20s.

     “I have my fingers crossed,” said Nancy Knauss, horticulture educator at the Penn State Cooperative Extension of Allegheny County. “If we do get a frost, (blooms) will be damaged, and that’s not a good thing.”****

     Before I read this I was reviewing journal pages written by Monte’s sister and brother-in-law in February and March, 1978. Fern and Ashton were traveling from Canton, New York to Florida, snowbirds with a camper. On Saturday, February 4th, they Arrived at the Lakewood East campground on Rt. 192 about 6-8 miles from Kissimmee. It was excellent driving as far as weather and roads were concerned. …Got here about 2:30 P. M. Very tired.

     The next morning Fern went to the church service in the campground here, while Ashton rested (9:30-10:30). After lunch, we drove over to Joie’s (Joie is Fern and Monte’s sister) and took them the cheese they’d ordered. Saw Joie, Paul, (and their children) Eddie, Karen, Jo-Ellen, and Paula’s three children. All were O.K. except Paul had a bad cold.  

     On February 28th that they went to Parkdale Market and bought 2 qt. of strawberries to bring home.  Before returning to the campground, however, they Stopped and had strawberry shortcake across the road from this market. It was very good.

     I don’t know if the strawberries they purchased or the ones they ate were grown in Florida. However, by Wednesday, March 8th, they went to Plant City to see if we could pick some strawberries and were told that in a month pickers would be allowed to do so but not now while the berries are in their prime. We did buy four quarts @ $1 and plan to get some more before we go home. Gave a quart to Bill + Thea and one to Lee + Lucille.

     In Southwestern Pennsylvania we don’t expect to pick strawberries until June, when our mouths water for treats at strawberry festivals. We relish the sweetest and reddest of these delectable berries.



     This search for redness reaches over into the Strawberry Frappuccino purchased by Starbucks customers. However, it was recently revealed that the pink and rosy color of that beverage does not come from the red, red, red, of the strawberry. Surprise—it is derived from a Cochineal extract, , the ground up bodies cochineal bugs, Dactylopius coccus, that are primarily found south of the border in Mexico and South America.

Cochineal insects are scale insects, that is, they are small plant-sucking bugs that are fairly closely related to aphids or cicadas (they are all homoptera)…**

Cochineal Insect, a scale insect traditionally used by Native Americans to make a crimson dye called cochineal. Spanish explorers in the 1550s brought cochineal from Mexico back to Europe. Cochineal became the most widely traded and, next to gold and silver, the most valuable product of the West Indies. Cochineal production was lucrative until the 20th century when synthetic dyes largely replaced cochineal.***

It has been found by the World Health Organization, however, to cause asthma in some people, and in some others an allergic reaction.*

     Back to the Starbucks Strawberry Frappuccino. Starbucks issued a statement, partly in response to vegans’ asking if the use of this ingredient makes Strawberry Frappuccino vegan or not. It reads in full:

At Starbucks, we strive to carry products that meet a variety of dietary lifestyles and needs. We also have the goal to minimize artificial ingredients in our products. While the strawberry base isn’t a vegan product, it helps us move away from artificial dyes.


     This year the strawberry growth is about a month ahead of their normal growth schedule*…. Since they have not blossomed yet, however, they should not be affected by the weather …

     Hopefully that is also true of the fruit trees in my yard, which show buds but no blossoms yet.

     Yes, it was a sunny and temperate winter—and now, reality is about to remove the results.

     I do hope the explosion of color the region is immersed in doesn’t disappear under a thin blanket of frozen dew. I’ve truly enjoyed the blooming trees, bushes, and roadside flowers. They won’t bloom a second time this year. They will, simply put, be lost for this season. As will much of the Southwestern Pennsylvania apple, peach, and pear crop.



THE CORPSE FLOWER (Amorphophallus titanum)—A WOLF IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING-Is in Bloom



Take Me Out to the Ball Game…So Reluctantly I Go

Laurel Mountain Borough, Pennsylvania: Quaint






****  ‘HIGH-IMPACT FREEZE’ DUE, Tribune-Review newspaper, March 26, 2012


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