Farmers' Almanac
Register | Log in

What is Dogwood Winter?

by Jaime McLeod

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Add to Google+ Share on Pinterest Subscribe by Email Print This Post

Spring can be an unpredictable time of year, with warm, summer-like conditions one day and snow the next. It’s easy to get lulled into a false sense of security that the weather will remain hospitable when — WHAM! — a freak cold snap hits and reminds you that winter only ended a few weeks ago.

Much like Indian summer — a period of unseasonable warmth in the middle of autumn — these periods of springtime cold have a name. Actually, they have several names. The “little winters” in the middle of spring are called variously Dogwood Winter, Blackberry Winter, Locust Winter, Whippoorwill Winter, Redbud Winter, and a few other regional variations.

Though predictable, the climb from cold of winter to the warmth of summer and back again is not completely smooth. Small “blips” in the overall pattern reveal noticeable fluctuations that can be observed from year to year. These blips are called singularities in weather lingo. For a singularity to be recognized, it has occur during at least 50% of years. Indian Summer is long-established singularity. Dogwood Winter is another.

But why is it called Dogwood Winter, or any of those other names, for that matter? Today, we keep track of the passing of the year with a calendar. If you want to know when the last frost of the year is likely to be, you can simply look up the date in your Farmers’ Almanac. Our ancestors, though, didn’t have calendars to consult. Instead, they relied on the signs of nature around them.

Dogwood Winter usually falls during late April or early May, right around the time the dogwood trees start blooming in many regions. Farmers knew it wasn’t safe to plant their crops until after the dogwoods bloomed.

Likewise, it takes a few days of cold weather to stimulate blackberry canes to start growing, which is why Blackberry Winter is another popular term for this weather phenomenon. Locust trees and redbud trees are also seen as harbingers of a spring cold spell. Which name you choose depends on which kind of tree is most abundant in your neck of the woods.

One largely forgotten term for a patch of cold during the springtime is Linsey-Woolsey Britches Winter. “Linsey-Woolsey britches” is an old a nickname for long johns, usually spun from a combination of linen and wool. This end-of-spring cold snap marked the day when the Linsey-Woolsey britches could be packed away for the season.

No matter what you call it, if you have a garden — or even if you just plan on packing away those winter sweaters — you’ll do well to remember that Dogwood Winter could still be waiting to catch optimistic sun lovers unprepared!

44 Responses

  1. Many thanks for the details we were trying to find this while we were checking the web and your website came up– Many thanks

    by Jolyn Postert on Jun 1, 2016 at 10:09 am Reply

  2. Maida, thank you for all of the “summers” . I love this kind if information. Also,I certainly understand about the achy joints in the cold and damp seasons. Although that pain is less, I still am so miserable in hot weather that I had rather be in the mountains. (I think)

    by Judy on May 17, 2016 at 3:23 pm Reply

  3. The super success of first Knights of the Old Republic game initiated a sequel’The Sith Lords, which has all the key aspects of the first RPG plus more re-playable quests and a good storyline. No, not Pixar standard yet, but Rio will more than do for now. You could give yourself some leisure time between classes or just within the break time, however are not in front of your TV.
    find here

    by find here on Apr 20, 2016 at 6:04 am Reply

  4. Vicki no one talks like that…I am from Eastern KY so I know.

    by Dianne Bilski on Apr 4, 2016 at 6:38 pm Reply

  5. I grew up around the old folk of East Tennessee and was taught much about moon signs and weatherlore. I’ve heard of 6 little winters…it starts out with Apple Blossom Winter (redbud winter), Dogwood Winter, Locust Winter, Blackberry Winter, Longjohn Winter, and Whippoorwill Winter. All tending to be about a fortnight (2 weeks) apart. If apple trees bud before March 20-21, it means an early Spring. If not they bloom around the spring equinox. Dogwood Winter usually comes second thru third week of April (10th – 17th) and is followed by Locust Winter at April’s end (May Day or Maying time). Blackberry Winter hits around 10th-15th of May and Longjohn Winter finishes May. Before Summer Solstice you’ll hear the sad cry of the whippoorwill on a bright starry night and know that next morning the better be an extra log ready for the fire.

    by Brus on Mar 21, 2016 at 5:03 pm Reply

  6. I never heard of winters until I came to Tennessee. My mother-law taught me a lot. red bud winter middle of March. Dog wood winter around April 20. Locust winter around first of May 1st. Blackberry winter between May 10 and 15. It’s not a good idea to plant your tomatoes until after May 15. A cool snap comes just before the blooming of the next. So when it warms up after the cool snaps, that’s when you will see the next blooming. Another thing my father-in law would never plant corn when there was a full moon, because he said it would only grow moon high, and nit produce any corn.

    by Ruth Smith on Mar 18, 2016 at 6:13 pm Reply

  7. Does anyone know if there’s a name for a very warm spell in late winter? It’s early March and has been in the 70’s here all week. Nice weather, but I’m worried all the trees will bloom and then get frostbite when our regular March weather comes back.

    by Laurie E on Mar 13, 2016 at 9:04 am Reply

  8. Does anyone know when “Blossom Day” is? I’ve always been told not to plant a garden on this day.

    by Neil Walton on Jul 13, 2015 at 8:08 am Reply

  9. Another folk term that is used for Linen Britches is “Stump” winter. Which is known to be the last cold snap before Spring/Summer sets in. This typically is the coldest one of the “winters” – Its name is derived from the fact that this is the last winter to put the last stump on the fire.

    I was raised by my grandparents in South-central Kentucky and was taught these wonderful folklores by my Grandmother aka “Mammy”. When I tell others of these winters they laugh and think I am making them up, it is nice to see others that recognize what my ancestors have taught me.

    by Teresa Clark on May 8, 2015 at 1:28 pm Reply

  10. Gosh, what a lovely article. I had never heard these folk terms before. Thank you for educating me! Where are you from Jaime that you know of these terms? I’m thinking southern United States. I’m from the Niagara Peninsula in Canada, which is the Carolinian Canada zone, so we can grow the species you are talking about.

    by Carla Carlson on Apr 27, 2015 at 4:37 pm Reply

  11. Born and raised in Santa Barbara Calif…it just needs to rain.

    by Carmen on Apr 12, 2015 at 1:03 pm Reply

  12. the secret to planting the Dogwoods is to not plant them too deep.

    by Nancy Tyler on Apr 12, 2015 at 7:49 am Reply

  13. I’ve never heard of any of these references to winter before. In N. Central Washington State, my grandpa ALWAYS planted potatoes on Good Friday. Everything else stayed in the hot house for a few more weeks. I set out tomatoes here a couple years ago on May 7th. Three days later the frost killed them! 🙁

    by Bill on Apr 12, 2015 at 3:51 am Reply

  14. I have always been told to not plant until after Mother’s Day !

    by Shirley on Apr 11, 2015 at 11:01 pm Reply

  15. My grand parents always said never plant until after APRIL 15th. But I have seen it freeze April 20th.

    by sherry richardson on Apr 11, 2015 at 7:50 pm Reply

  16. I have seen cold snap on easter about ever year and seen red buds bloom and cold snap dog woods bloom in cold snap and black berrys bloom and a cold snap and seen all in bloom on certain years in the same cold snap usually it gets hot quick whin that happens also seen cool spell in June that is June drop my dad said get your corn in at first of may or before the tenth because the birds hasn’t hatched, it lets it big enough so they don’t pull it up before they hatch,

    by turkey on Apr 7, 2015 at 9:33 pm Reply

  17. hey hey hey hey

    by Daneiel on Mar 30, 2015 at 5:10 pm Reply

  18. Born n raised by grandparents in hills of Kentucky. My pa n ma and all the folks here had these winters…easter squaw happens right around easter time..redbud winter…sarvis winter..dogwood winter..blackberry winter..linen britches winter and stump winter…gardens were planted on good Friday even if it was raining cats n dogs…in the fall it would turn off cold then it would come a hot spell..that’s called Indian summet

    by vicki on Mar 26, 2015 at 11:13 am Reply

  19. In Appalachia we have first the Sarvis Winter…the Sarvis tree bears small clusters of white flowers and grows on the mountain sides and in the fall produces edible fruit like a date that can be boiled and used for Colic….then we have redbud winter, then dogwood, then blackberry winter….some claim a Locust Winter at the last.

    by Rita on May 16, 2014 at 9:10 am Reply

  20. The last little”winter” we have here in central E TN is Whippoorwill winter. It is generally warm and nice the rest of the season once you hear the Whippoorwills singing at night. That’s when I move jackets and sweaters to the back of the closet 🙂

    by Tanya on May 1, 2014 at 9:24 am Reply

  21. as for the number of small winters we have here in South Central Ky, we have more like 7. The last one being stump, a few weeks after blackberry. It is said, that the old folks called it stump because the stumps where the only things left to burn on those cool mornings. I can’t remember one of them, but right off hand I can recall 6. Linen britches, Red bud, Dog wood, Locus, Black berry, ??? & Stump. As for as Frost and cold, I can remember it snowing on the first Saturday of May (Derby Day).

    by Patricia Fancher on Apr 25, 2014 at 1:40 pm Reply

  22. im from south louisiana here whoop whoop! we go threw all of the seasons weather conditions in one day around here sometimes! you can start tomatoes an other plants that cant handle frost inside. but i was always told never put them in the ground till the day after easter thats the last frost. and the 20yrs farming and ovserving the last frost is always easter sunday, it mite get chilly but never a frost. 4/25/14 8:00am here in baton rouge and its 70* degrees feelin good around here

    by jacob roberts on Apr 25, 2014 at 8:53 am Reply

  23. My grandfather waited until Good Friday to plant veggies. Didn’t matter what day it fell on.

    by Mary on Apr 25, 2014 at 5:48 am Reply

  24. In N.E. Mn. we have no dogwood, locusts, or blackberry patches to speak of. Here, no telling when we’ll get past the fluctuating cold snaps. We just call it “spring”. Works for us!

    by Pamela Sue on Apr 25, 2014 at 4:06 am Reply

  25. If I was made king for a day or given such supernatural powers along those lines (genie in a bottle etc), this is one of the first things I’d change about the world. I absolutely cannot STAND spring-time cold snaps. To me, once March 20th arrives, there should not be another single solitary cold day again at all whatsoever until late October or November. The “roller coaster” weather of spring drives me crazy.

    I like warm weather, but I understand Nov – Mar being cold, that’s winter after all, so I accept that. However, once spring is here, then in my mind, that means winter is over and so should every last bit of the cold weather too, ALL of it. It should stop right on the DOT when spring gets here, and never appear again. For it to do otherwise, it feels like you’re being cheated out of warm weather you have every right to expect. My friend, who likes it cold, says the same thing about freak 80 degree days in December, and I actually agree with him. Let spring be a gradual warm-up from winter (no “peaks and valleys” just a straight linear climb up), summer be hot, autumn be the reverse of spring (again, a straight linear experience, but a slope down vs a climb up), and winter be cold. Period. No exceptions. Ever.

    by LRH on Apr 17, 2014 at 10:54 am Reply

  26. my mom who grew up in wears valley when there was just a dirt road running thru , always told me, what ever you wear after the 1st of may won’t hurt you, I guess that was after the long johns were put away

    by mike douglas on Apr 15, 2014 at 8:45 pm Reply

  27. Can any one tell me what all the names are like Dog wood winter, Indian summer, etc.? Thanks

    by Sue on Apr 13, 2014 at 5:51 pm Reply

  28. …the legend of the dogwood goes something like this:….The blooms have 4 petals, forming a cross…..on the tip of the petals are brownish marks that represent the wounds that our SAVIOR received before dying on the cross……the red berries that form in the center represent HIS blood and the berries are the seeds that reproduce and form more dogwoods..(similar to reproducing more Christians)……the legend says the dogwood tree used to be large, but after the crucifixion, the tree never grew large enough to be used as a cross………………here in TN we have so many dogwood trees in the wild that it looks like snow when they are in bloom……

    by rhonda on Apr 1, 2014 at 10:12 pm Reply

  29. I think there needs to be alot more added to it, since winter just kepts lingering on & on, like dandelion winter ,moss winter, grass winter, and then just plain ol’ it’s just stubborn winter.

    by bubba on Mar 24, 2014 at 9:53 am Reply

  30. Linsey-Woolsey britches winter

    by S Yarbeo on Mar 18, 2014 at 10:24 am Reply

  31. Anyone know the name of the old short winter that is like britches winter? It may also have the word Virginia in it. I cannot recall.

    by Flowersrpeople2 on Mar 16, 2014 at 6:47 pm Reply

  32. MY grandfather told me 40 yrs ago that is was redbud, dogwood blackberry, then locust was the last little winter. locust bloom first or second week of may. after the 10th of may it is safe to plant anything that frost might hurt. Ihave never heard of strawberry winter, but i like it.

    by james byard on Apr 25, 2013 at 1:10 pm Reply

  33. Here in Ohio I have always been told that it goes in three’s. First Dogwood winter, Then redbud winter and then finally blackberry Winter which usually happens around Mother’s Day. Never put your tomato’s in the ground untill after Mother’s day.

    by Karen on Apr 11, 2013 at 12:10 pm Reply

  34. When I was growing up my dad would never take down the coal stove for the summer until after Blackberry winter which was always in May in Wirt Co WV

    by Mary Thatcher on Mar 27, 2012 at 11:46 am Reply

  35. My great uncle always said to wait til the last full moon to plant crops. probally in May or early June. Many years ago he planted his garden too early and had to plant a second time. I live in Loudon N.H. which is sometimes cold. I have never heard of the dogwood. I guess I will have to buy one and let it tell me when to plant.

    by Linda on May 18, 2011 at 7:32 pm Reply

  36. The last cold snap is called stump winter. You have used all your wood & it turns off cold so you get part of a old stump to burn…

    by Roxye Milby on May 18, 2011 at 9:28 am Reply

  37. I never heard of “Dogwood Winter” before but I’m familiar with Blackberry Winter and also “Strawberry Winter” which is what I call cool snaps that come around Mid-May in this area.

    by Ronnie on May 11, 2011 at 9:40 am Reply

  38. Agreed about winters & names – here in North Georgia – we also have the Easter Cold Snap…and no matter when Easter comes – we have that cold snap – isn’t God cool! Right now, the dogwood blooms have been long gone and this week May 4, 2011 – we are finishing up with Blackberry Winter – the hot summer is coming! So grateful for the coolness for our neighbors in Ringgold & surrounding areas that are working hard to get some kind of normalcy in their lives since the tornadoes came thru.

    by Lynn on May 4, 2011 at 9:56 am Reply

  39. well agree with mark all the way do we know what the leaves on the dogwoods mean i was allways told that what kind of wood that they sacrificed our savior on am i right , the red on the leaves repasents blood am i right.

    by tony cahill on Apr 29, 2011 at 1:49 am Reply

  40. It has been to my knowledge that the Dogwood requires a lot of care.

    by Stanley Dashwood Green on Apr 27, 2011 at 11:51 am Reply

  41. I agree with most of what you say in the article, but typically, here in Western Kentucky, these cold snaps are named for whatever happens to be in bloom: Dogwood Winter – cold snap while dogwoods blooms; Blackberry Winter while Blackberries are in bloom, and so forth and so on. Typically, all “winters” – cold snaps names end with the first day of Summer. At least that is the way I understand it.

    by Maranatha! Mark on Apr 27, 2011 at 9:41 am Reply

  42. You are right on with this. Farmers Almanac called the last frost date for our area as 4/26/11. Today as I pulled down the driveway I gladly took notice of the blooming dogwoods that were not there on yesterdays ride down. Beauty at it’s finest.

    by Jessica on Apr 27, 2011 at 8:55 am Reply

Leave a Reply

« | »