El Niño, Spanish for “the child” because it typically forms around Christmas, is a current in the Pacific that brings especially warm winters to the Charleston area every few years. During El Niño years, the Lowcountry, which typically enjoys winters warm enough to enable most landscape installations, can have “cold seasons” warm enough to allow for the installation of plants that typically wouldn’t be installed until late winter. Moreover, El Niño winters bring lots of rain, which is beneficial to newly-installed plants.
Of equal importance, the extended growing season provided by “the child” gives new landscape installations additional time during their key period of development to take root and grow before the unrelenting heat from the following summer challenges their fortitude. (Recall the abundance of St. Augustine grass-killing fungus and armyworms we had last summer.)
As I sit here typing on James Island on December 28, it’s 79 degrees outside with a heat index of 82. It’s remarkable that we’re having a heat index in late December. Outside the window, I see green grass, hydrangeas continuing to radiate flowers of various colors, and a lantana full of flowers of multiple colors with butterfies fluttering about.
¡Viva El Niño! Time to close this post, go outside, and do what I love most: designing and installing landscapes in warmth and sunshine.
Seth Mason, Charleston SC