We’ve all heard the expression “April showers bring May flowers,” but most probably aren’t familiar with the origin of the phrase and also question how valid the statement is. After all, we already have plenty of flowers in April between dogwoods, cherries, azaleas and the like.
It turns out that this popular idiom can be traced back to the 1300’s when a version of the phrase was published in Middle English. After that, various sources are found in England and Ireland where “April showers bring May showers” is pretty truthful. In these climates April does often bring periods of heavier rain and the phrase was probably used to give residents something to hope for during the cloudy, wet weather. However, this may not be the case in Winston-Salem where we have a higher amount of average rainfall in May. In April we typically receive 3.7″ and May we receive 3.86″ disproving the phrase we use so commonly. This month we have already received 2.09″ of rain.
It is also interesting to note that most flowering plants are more affected by warm temperatures when it comes to blooming time than rainfall. This spring is a prime example, as we saw plenty of trees flowering prematurely and daffodils sprang to the surface earlier than ever. Research shows that first flowering dates correlate with warm temperatures and the sooner temperatures rise, the earlier plants bloom. As was the case this year, having warm temperatures early can be detrimental to flowering plants, especially for crops such as apples, peaches, and cherries. If plants begin flowering prior to our last hard frost it will result in cold damage to foliage, flowers, and developing fruits. While it’s fairly reliable to say that if our average spring temperatures continue to warm we should see earlier and earlier flowering, it is unclear what the long-term results will be or if certain plants that require a chilling period will stop flowering altogether.