HAWTHORNE, N.Y. – The recent warm winter weather in the northeast may not just be a plus for those itching for spring and summer. Barbara Kijak, owner and operator of Green Valley Nursery in Hawthorne, said the higher temperature can be especially great for home gardeners.
“It may mean that people can garden plants that they may not have been able to in the past because they wouldn’t normally be able to survive through those colder temperatures,” Kijak said.
The abnormally warm weather is evident in a shift in the United States Department of Agriculture’s Plant Hardiness Map. According to the USDA, the hardiness map shows a guide for what types of plants would be best suited to thrive in a particular area. The different zones in the map are based off the average minimum temperature in the winter months. The 2012 map shows that Westchester County and the greater New York City area are currently in zone 7a, which has a minimum of zero to five degrees Fahrenheit, up from the previous minimum average temperature in the area of -5 to zero degrees Fahrenheit.
Kijak said customers have requested typical southern plants that would not have previously been able to survive in a northeast climate, the most popular being the Crape Myrtle, an evergreen shrub with purple or pink colored flowers that is typical in states such as Maryland. Kijak said the climate change in this region may soon fulfill those wishes.
“It’s got beautiful colors and people see it down south and they want it for their own home garden up north,” Kijak said. “They previously would never be able to have it up here but now they may be able to grow it.”
Kijak is not buying into the climate change just yet. Despite recent warm weather, Green Valley Nursery, which has operated in Hawthorne for more than 60 years, will remain on its usual schedule this year of offering spring and summer plants beginning in April. A late winter storm in March could ruin plants early in the season and Kijak said the weather is still too unpredictable to risk changing the timeline.
“With the winter weather, you just never know what could happen,” Kijak said.