Local Blooms Survive Cold Snap

KNOXVILLE — Local blooms survived the latest assault of East Tennessee’s quirky spring weather, but the threat is not over yet, a University of Tennessee ornamental horticulturist said Tuesday.

Dr. Don Williams said unseasonably warm weather in recent weeks has prompted premature buds and blooms, but most have survived Monday’s freeze.

“There was ice and frost Monday and Tuesday,” Williams said, “but until you get down below 28 degrees, there’s not much damage.”

Williams said most local pear trees, oriental magnolia, peach and plum trees are unfazed. Forsythia, dogwood, and jonquil blooms also are unhurt, he said.

Forecasters call for gradual warming this week, but cold weather damage remains likely, Williams said. Chances for freezing temperatures in Knoxville are at least 50 percent until April 7, he said.

“The chance of another freeze remains high,” Williams said. “The buds and blooms right now are about 10 days earlier than normal. If we get past the next couple of weeks without a problem, maybe then we’ll be out of the woods.”

Williams was a UT graduate student in 1955 when he learned a harsh lesson about the killing frosts of spring.

“I was helping a Purdue University researcher who came here to cross-pollinate pear trees,” Williams said. “It was warm in March, but in the middle of April, the thermometer never got up to 32 degrees for three days. It was in the teens every night.

“We lost 100 percent of what we did, and it wiped out the state’s fruit crop.”