Plant-growers unnerved by erratic winter weather near Victoria, B.C

Plant-growers unnerved by erratic winter weather near Victoria, B.C

Plants blooming early after mild December on South Vancouver Island

Ryan Vantreight says he doesn’t know when his seven million daffodils will bloom these days, given that weather patterns over the winter months in Greater Victoria have become so unreliable.

Longview Farms in Saanichton, B.C., is a large organic fruit, vegetable and daffodil producer on Vancouver Island, shipping products across Canada and the United States.

Vantreight says ten years ago, the daffodils would bloom consistently in mid-February, and would be picked later in the month. This year, they started poking their heads out in December⁠ — three weeks earlier than last year.

“We’ve had a very mild winter, and because of that … we’re having a lot more growth in the fields than we normally would see,” he said.

Vantreight added he isn’t worried about the time of year his flowers bloom because the market for his crops will always be there. Instead, he’s concerned about the potential for a sudden severe cold weather snap, or a massive snow dump like the one that occurred last February. The weather change killed three million of his early bloomers, damaged a number of fruit and vegetable crops and caused significant financial losses.

He hopes this doesn’t become a yearly trend.

“We’re holding our breath this year,” said Vantreight. “It’s a problem when … the flowers come up and then Mother Nature changes her mind and says ‘Yeah, we’re just going to dump a bunch of snow on you and freeze everything.’ ”

Environment Canada meteorologist Armel Castellan said Greater Victoria is seeing more weather extremes than it ever has over the winter months.

After a very dry November and December, followed by extensive rain in January, Castellan said Greater Victoria should see some flurries and a cold weather snap as early as this Friday when temperatures could drop from 10 C to – 2 C.

He added that this December was 1.4 degrees above normal for the south island, making it the 14th warmest December on record.

Mike McHugh, president of the Victoria Horticulture Society, said he’s noticed plants in Victoria budding earlier than usual, including tulips and hydrangeas in his own backyard.

Mike McHugh, president of the Victoria Horticulture Society, says the warmer than usual winter months have caused a number of his flowers to bloom early this year, including these primroses. 

“I was in Oak Bay a couple days ago and noticed the rhododendrons almost in full bloom. Normally you wouldn’t get anything until the end of the month,” he said, adding that he’s confident the recent rain and warm weather has had something to do with the early blooms.

He said his neighbour’s cherry tree now blooms a full month earlier than it did when it was first planted in 1980. “That, for sure, is a long-term trend,” he said.

McHugh noted he’s nervous about a sudden cold snap after the random weather last year killed many of his fuchsias.

Vantreight said he hopes this weekend’s cold weather will be enough to keep his crops from growing too tall, too early, but not enough to kill them.

“The thing about farming is we’ve got to be able to roll with whatever challenges or changes Mother Nature throws at us,” he said.

 

Sourced From: Adam van der ZwanCBC News