The five little winters of Tennessee

The temperature outside right now is at its predicted low of 33 degrees, I’m hoping the crops made it through the night without any frost damage. Judging from the delicate comfrey blossoms in the front yard (pictured above), I think we might have made it.

These cold snaps in Spring are called “little winters.” I think this is Blackberry Winter.

If you are outside often enough over time, you’ll notice there are usually four or five of these singularities in weather patterns that last a day or two. They were named for the most common bloom at the time, except for “Britches Winter.” That particular cold snap refers to the need to have kept your homespun linen wool long underwear (linsey-woolsey britches) handy.

There is a 6th little winter I call a phantom winter that some folks call Whippoorwill Winter. I call it “phantom” because it’s not usually as cold or damaging as the rest.

Here are the five little winters and when they occur in Tennessee:

  1. Redbud Winter: early April
  2. Dogwood Winter: late April
  3. Locust Winter: early May
  4. Blackberry Winter: mid May
  5. Britches Winter: late May

28 thoughts on “The five little winters of Tennessee

  1. I have lived here in Tennessee all my life I have heard all of them even Whipporwill, except for Britches. I like that. Funny thing is, today people are wearing shorts in the winter. I think they have lost their minds. I have heard some say it is the medication they are on. I know when spring comes, if you got a lot of clothes you start swapping winter clothes for spring. I always leave a pair or 2 thick jeans and sweat shirts, or long sleeve shirts.

  2. I have lived in Tennessee all my life and grew up knowing about all these little winters, then I started dating a man from South Carolina that thought I was crazy when he heard me explain all this to him. I needed to find it on the computer to show him that I wasn’t completely insane. I always started putting my winter clothes up around the 1st of May. I am cold natured so you can’t exactly go by me, but I am usually pretty close. Thank you for help in proving that I love Tennessee and that I am not crazy.

  3. I would call my daddy every year to see which winter it was. Last year, he passed away. I cannot ask anymore, so I googled it! I love Tennessee and I miss hearing about the winters from my daddy.

  4. Pingback: Redbud winter – Nashens

  5. WSMV’s Bill Hall always let us know which winter we were experiencing. I still miss Bill and all his gardening advise and am grateful for your website.

  6. This year (2016) so far the winters are coming 2 weeks sooner than the times in this article (from 2013). I’m in upper East Tennessee, outside of Green eville.

  7. This is April 11,2016 dogwood and blackberries are in full bloom here in Tennessee . Mcnairy county where I live at same time Crazy weather seasons are off track

  8. I love this site! I can never remember which winter or what name it is. I live in southeast Kentucky and I think we are currently having blackberry winter! I just want to get through them and have some full time warm weather!! Thanks for all the posts, love reading them and being educated on these winters

  9. I grew up in Kentucky, and heard of this winters as well. We had a name for the cold snap that came after the first warm days in March – we had a “daffodil winter”. I now live in NC, and these people haven’t heard of these winters that much. Many are getting their education from me.

  10. I have heard of Lin Tree Winter when the Lin Honey is being collected by bees. Harve you heard of this?

  11. I’ve lived in good ‘ole Tennessee my whole life. I love hearing about these winters, and just like a clock they come around every year, some a couple weeks earlier or later

  12. I have lived in TN all my life and I’ve notice these little winters start when the buttercups bloom. I have named it buttercup winter

  13. I heard of the 5 winters all my life. My grandparents swore by them. As a child I always thought it was an old wives tale. As I have gotten older I realized there is something to “watching the trees.” Love living in Tennessee.

  14. My mother always kept me in tune with which winter it was . She has been gone for 11 years and I still can not get them straight..Just lucked up on your site as I was googling what winter we were in right before Easter .Thank you .!

  15. Did not know they were Tennessee sayings, heard most of them all my life of 73 yrs in Southwest VA. Too close to call?

  16. Have lived here for 64 years…all my life. My mom and dad always told us of the small winters that were to come. There are seven total. They usually start in or around the end of February first of March. First we have Cotton Wood winter, the Cotton Wood trees bud. Hackberry is next, then Elm Wood, next Redbud, then Dogwood, next Blackberry, comes around the first week of May. finally Cotten Britches. I have also noticed that it matters not if Easter is in March or April the Dogwood trees always seem to bloom right around Easter. I think it has to do with the Jewish calendar and Passover.

  17. I’ve always heard the britches winter called linen britches. A elderly man of the ripe old age of 107 told me it was called that because back in his young days men wore britches made of linen and after that cold snap you could get ur linen britches out and start wearing them

  18. My grandmother called it cotton britches winter. She said things warmed up & everyone was wearing their cotton britches, & then it would get cold & they would have to change back to their wool pants.

  19. I have heard my parents and grandparents talk of these winters, and now I teach my children and grandson. They are unfailing, because with the blooming of those trees and shrubs comes a reminder of the winter you just made it through. Also, have you ever seen dogwoods and redbuds blooming at the same time? You are in for a real cold snap when that happens, but it’s rare. I even saw it snow one year, when both were blooming.

  20. I wrote this poem in 2016 about Blackberry Winter…
    Oh it’s Blackberry Winter
    Spring is finally here
    But there’s a little nip
    Still floating in the air
    The Dogwood tree
    Has made it’s blooms
    To smile at us once again
    So has the sweet magnolia
    And soon we’ll smell
    It’s fragrance on the wind
    The weeping willow is just starting
    To shake it’s droopy head
    The slightest green we see atop them
    As the redbud turns to red
    Oh today’s been gray and dreary
    There’s soup inside the pot
    To keep a body toasty
    Each mug is piping hot!
    But it won’t be much longer
    That it won’t be cold at all
    This flurry that we’re getting
    Is just an Easter Squall
    Soon the warm rains of
    Springtime will quench
    The waiting ground
    We’ll be dancing in the sunshine
    With flowers all around…

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