“Blackberry winter” is a new season to me, but this colloquial expression is used in south & midwest North America. It refers to a cold snap that often occurs in late spring when the blackberries are in bloom.
Timing for blackberry blooms varies depending on the weather in your area and the variety. But in the warmer climates (USDA zone 7 and south) blackberries start blooming from mid-April to early May.
In cooler climates, like Paradelle, blackberries begin to bloom in late May and are not ready to harvest until around mid-July. Though the frost-free date here is supposed to be April 22, there will be no blackberry winters here. It is more likely that in April our fruit trees, like apples and peaches, will get nipped.
Some people believe that a blackberry winter helps the blackberry canes to start growing.
Another blossom that can get hit by a cold snap in our region is the cherry blossom.
The cherry blossom is a mainstay image of spring in haiku poetry. Japanese cherry blossoms and the tradition of flower gazing, or hanami, has inspired poets for centuries.
cherry blossoms scatter–
snap! the buck’s antlers
they fall and scatter…
Very brief –
Gleam of blossoms in the treetops
On a moonlit night.
A lovely spring night
suddenly vanished while we
viewed cherry blossoms
Drinking up the clouds
it spews out cherry blossoms –
unable to resist
Washington D.C. is famous for the thousands of cherry trees sent there as a gift from Japan before the World Wars as a gesture of friendship. It is far less well-known that Branch Brook Park in Newark, New Jersey has more cherry trees than Washington D.C.
But if you are in that warmer climate and you get a late cold snap so that a little “winter” hits during spring, you have “blackberry winter,” although there are other names for this weather anomaly: “dogwood winter,” “whippoorwill winter,” “locust winter,” and “redbud winter” are all variations.
As with the different nature-oriented names for the Full Moons that are based on locations, these names are based on what is blooming in regions during the typical spring cold snaps.
In rural England, this is called “blackthorn winter” because the blackthorn in hedgerows blossoms in early April.
In Finland, this is a common occurrence in April or May. They call it takatalvi, meaning “back winter.”