‘Winters’ During Spring?

Anyone who has lived in East Tennessee for any amount of time knows that once spring arrives, winter isn’t necessarily finished playing its tricks.

According to folklore and old wives tales, East Tennesseans receives a visit by five or six different cold snaps, or “winters” as the locals call them.

The early arrival of spring has accelerated the series of “winters” this year. Typically, the cold snap that occurs the first couple weeks of April is referred to as “Red Bud Winter”. Usually, the red bud trees are not in full bloom until at least the first week of the month, but with the warmer than normal winter, and the earlier than normal temperature rise, the trees were fully purple by the last week of March.

The chilly temperatures that the area has been experiencing over the weekend, and brought frost to some of the area Saturday morning, is known as “Dogwood Winter”. This will happen when the dogwood trees are in full bloom, showing off their four-petaled flowers in abundance. Most farmers, along with the Farmer’s Almanac, say that it isn’t necessarily safe to plant gardens until after the dogwoods bloom.

In late April to early May, “Locust Winter” sneaks up on the area. As predicted, this occurs when the locust trees are in bloom. This particular winter can bring light frost, but usually not a hard freeze, and sometimes strong storms. It often is a breath of fresh air before temperatures soar consistently in to the 80’s for the region.

Blackberry bushes actually need cooler air to stimulate their growth to produce plentiful blooms for the season, so usually in mid May there’s yet another cold snap called “Blackberry Winter”. Commonly, this “winter” ushers in the last chance of frost for the year, although some say that comes with Dogwood Winter.

One of the final cold snaps before summer sets in for the season, and brings the hazy, hot, humid days, is known as “Whippoorwill Winter”. According to folklore, when the whippoorwill sings her twilight tune, there will be another cold front move through. This “winter” often only brings chilly dreary days, and unfortunately has been known to hit the area around Memorial Day.

Some say there is also a sixth, not as commonly known “winter” in early June called “Cotton Britches Winter”. This final chilly spell traditionally occurred when the Linsey-Woolsey (linen and wool) pants worn in cold weather were put away and farmers changed to the light cotton pants of summer.

The roller coaster that is East Tennessee in the spring, is enough to make one’s head spin. From dodging tornadoes. to covering up newly planted flowers for protection from frost, to grabbing a winter coat, then grabbing the sunscreen on the same day. There’s never a dull moment, but can be a beautiful ride for those who can breathe through all the pollen.

Source: Angie Stanley, Jefferson County Post Staff Writer