Local News

Chilly Weather Portends Changes Ahead

Posted October 5, 1996 12:00 a.m. EDT

— North Carolinians got a chilly wake up call Saturday morning. With a temperature in the Triangle area only nine degrees above freezing (and even lower in the mountains), everyone was reminded that winter is indeed on its way.

This season, however, will be different for some victims of Hurricane Fran. North Carolinians who were toughing it out in their damaged homes -- despite smashed roofs, buckled walls or even radiators torn off their supports -- have had to find other living arrangements. In the typical hot weather of an early Southern fall, it was possible to make do with sleeping bags or electric blankets. But 41 degrees necessitates a change.

Other Tar Heels are calling their fuel oil dealers, arranging for the first deliveries of the season. And, while the companies can bring the fuel at any time, a cold snap sets their phones ringing with requests.

Autumn brings pumpkins and chrysanthemums, but homeowners know it's about time to close up the garden. Tomato plants and other spent vegetation needs to be removed. A layer of mulch will help hosta and dahlia tubers (for the brave who leave them in-ground over winter) get through the cold weather.

Bulbs will be bought and planted, and in this region they can usually be planted as late as Thanksgiving. Spring-flowering bulbs such as crocus, iris danfordiae, hyacinths, daffodils, tulips, grape hyacinths and pushkinia need to be planted now for bloom in 1997. They need the time under ground to send out sturdy roots.

At the first serious frost, everyone needs to be prepared for the collapse of impatiens, geraniums and verbena, and for the blackening of dahlia foliage. Impatiens are annuals but may return again next year if they have hurled enough seed around the yard. And the dahlias will return from their tuber base, unless they get frozen over winter.

One nice aspect of autumn is that it's time to plant pansies. This flower has been greatly improved through hybridizing, so that colors are bright and the petals can be enormous. North Carolinians plant them now and enjoy their late fall bloom. When temperatures get bitter, the pansy leaves may look iced up, but as soon as the first hint of warmer temperatures arrives they are ready to bloom again. It's not unusual for them to bloom from October to June, with a time-out for ice and snow.

Oh, by the way -- do you know where your snow shovel is?