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Chilly Weather Portends Changes Ahead

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RALEIGH — North Carolinians got a chilly wake up callSaturday morning. With a temperature in the Triangle area only ninedegrees above freezing (and even lower in the mountains), everyone wasreminded that winter is indeed on its way.

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

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

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

Bulbs will be bought and planted, and in thisregion 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 nowfor bloom in 1997. They need the time under ground to send out sturdyroots.

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

One nice aspect of autumn is that it's time to plant pansies. Thisflower has been greatly improved through hybridizing, so that colors arebright and the petals can be enormous. North Carolinians plant them nowand enjoy their late fall bloom. When temperatures get bitter, thepansy leaves may look iced up, but as soon as the first hint of warmertemperatures arrives they are ready to bloom again. It's not unusual forthem 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?

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