Appalachia Appalachian Dialect Granny Weather

Blackberry Winter


blackberry winter

1962 Dykeman Tall Woman 14 And after the cold spell, when dogwoods bloomed, there would be whippoorwill winter and blackberry winter. “Dogwood winter” happens in April, but it is soon followed by another spell of cold called “blackberry winter,” which occurs in May when blackberry briars put out their delicate flowers.


Blackberry winter is in full session in southern Appalachia. After a few weeks of 80 degree weather its been chilly this week with temps in the low 40s. In addition, a cold wind has been howling across the ridges and down through the hollers leaving fallen trees in some areas and leaves and branches littering the ground everywhere you look.

From the time I was a little girl I knew about Blackberry Winter and Dogwood Winter too. I said I knew about them, I didn’t say I always believed in them.

Of course when I was really young I never gave either any thought other than wishing they’d go away so summer, shorts, and swimming could arrive.

During my late teenage years I was doubtful as to the truth of either of the spring winters. I suppose I thought of them as some quaint thing Granny had come up with to try and be colorful.

Once I was a mother putting my own hands into the good earth each spring as I tried to feed my family good wholesome things and save money at the same time, I began to pay much closer attention to the mountain holler I lived in. And what do you know, Granny and all those other folks who talked about Blackberry and Dogwood winter were right. It never fails, each spring when the Dogwood trees bloom there is a cold snap of weather that lasts a few days and every year when the Blackberry briars put out their white tease of sweetness to come there is a spell of cold weather that makes you wonder if spring of the year is really here.


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  • Reply
    May 10, 2017 at 9:11 pm

    My mother, who died in 1997 at the age of 88 kept yearly journals. In one which is in my possession she wrote the following entry titled “Blackberry Winter”
    The time when the hoarfrost lies on the blackberry blossoms. Without this frost, the berries will not set. It is the forerunner of a rich harvest.
    I don’t know where she may have read this or heard it from someone. She grew up in Orange County, Va. and the Eastern shore of Va.

  • Reply
    Mary Berrong
    May 6, 2017 at 7:50 pm

    I’ve heard of dogwood and blackberry winter all my life. My husband won’t plant above ground crops until after the 10th of May, because we generally have frost on the 8th or 9th. Supposed to be Cold tonight so we’ll see! I’ve never heard of Whippoorwill winter, and there aren’t many of those around like there used to be. We used to sit out at night just to hear their call.

  • Reply
    May 6, 2017 at 4:34 pm

    You know, you’re right. I never noticed it before, but it’s happened too often since I moved to NC to doubt it.
    I have asthma, and I’m enjoying the cooler weather. It’d be a great time to take a blanket out to the hammock and have a little nap, well…if the hammock was out of storage already which wisely – it’s not. LOL
    Prayers everyone’s having a wonderful weekend.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    May 6, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    Growing up in Tennessee we had redbud, dogwood and blackberry. When I moved to Kentucky ten ryears ago I learned about Linen Breeches. Never heard of that except Kentucky.

  • Reply
    George Pettie
    May 6, 2017 at 11:46 am

    Definitely Blackberry Winter today at Deep Creek Lake, in the central Appalachians. Temperature is 40º, with snow forecast for tonight.

  • Reply
    May 6, 2017 at 10:52 am

    Yep, chilly here also. I can just see all those little blood thirsty chiggers and ticks waking up climbing out on the ends of the briars waiting for all those who dare pick the berries when they get ripe. It was a family tradition at our house to go blackberry picking, my brother and I ate blackberry jelly like shoveling coal into a fire, we loved it was an under statement.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    May 6, 2017 at 10:14 am

    Our Whip-poor-wills are “scarce as hens teeth” around here anymore…I think cayotes! When we first moved here we had whip-poor-will winter sometime after June 1st…and always I listened for the whip-poor-wills late in the evening just before dark…Every time I think of the “whip-poor-will call” the lines to the song…”My Blue Heaven” comes to my mind….these are the lines I remember…”When whip-poor-wills call and evening is nigh, I hurry to my blue heaven…A turn to the right, there’s a little white light. Will lead you to my Blue Heaven! I just love that old song…The Whip-poor-will call at the end of the day and a early spring chill in the air makes hurrying home to a cozy nest welcoming!
    The only call that is a given these days is our Chuck Wills-Widow…and he doesn’t call until about the second week in June!
    Love this post Tipper,
    PS…Chilly here the last few days…the birds are eating us out of house and home…They are just too lazy or too wet for the weed seeds to dry properly and so they focus on the feeders. The suet eaters have females sitting on eggs or even a few hatchlings and are grabbing my home made suet with chick starter for feeding in this cold wet weather….Ha

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    May 6, 2017 at 10:13 am

    Last Saturday night it was warm outside and I sat outside whittling til up close to midnight. I love listening to night sounds after the neighborhood has gone to bed. As I sat there contemplating the universe, I thought I heard a whippoorwill. “It’s too early in the year for whippoorwills,” I thought.
    “There it is again!” “It is, It is, a whippoorwill!”
    We’ve had and have those whistling, chilling winds and the blackberries are in full bloom here but I will not evoke the adage “Blackberry Winter,”
    I’ve heard the Whippoorwill!

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    May 6, 2017 at 9:53 am

    It sure happened this year, come to think of it. We did have a Dogwood Winter around Easter, the same time the Dogwoods started blooming, and we are definitely having the Blackberry Winter right now. Just noticed a few days ago that the blackberries are blooming and I woke up to 44 degrees this morning!
    Now I can’t wait for the end of June and picking my favorite fruit!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    May 6, 2017 at 9:24 am

    Well, here at my place the blackberry bloomed about two weeks ago but this morning around daylight it was 47. So I don’t know this year. The cold spell and the dogwood or blackberry blooming are not lining up very well this time.
    As for whippoorwill winter, we had that in Kentucky when I was growing up. It was the last cold spell of spring and coincided with the arrival of the whip poor will bird which always happened in May. For those not familiar with them, they call at night and the call is a distinct “whip poor will” repeated over and over. Dad always took his annual spell of wanting to go catfishing along about then and to me that call is linked with fishing and the Sand Cliff on the Cumberland River.
    Whip poor wills do not occur, so far as I know, in this part of Georgia. Nor has whippoorwill winter (until maybe this year). Instead there is a closely related bird, the chuck wills widow. And yes, that is exactly what its call sounds like. Each bird is a mottled and speckled brown, gray and black and are all but invisible sitting in the leaves on the ground which is where they nest. Each is also a woods bird and I do not even hear the chuck wills widow here as there are not enough woods close by.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    May 6, 2017 at 9:23 am

    Oh the beauty of our sayings:
    “Dogwood Winter,” “Blackberry Winter”;
    Cold has not finished with us yet:
    God’s plan is at the center
    Of sun and moon, of skies and seas,
    Of people’s lives throughout our land;
    May these “cold snaps” remind of truth:
    We are guarded by God’s hand.
    -Ethelene Dyer Jones, May 6, 2017
    In response, Tipper, to your wonderful post, an extemporaneous, spur-of-the-moment poem this morning! I’m reminded of my dear father, Jewel Marion Dyer, who knew well about the “winter seasons” in the springtime! Blackberry winter came so fiercely in Choestoe in May one year when I was small that we actually had snow (so he said; I was too young to remember snow in May!). Our cornfields had corn already up. The whole crop of corn had to be replanted that year, because he could not put a shield of protection on it like he did the growing plants in our garden. But Appalachian farmers had a way of “accepting with gratitude” what came, revamping, and started again. He told me he replanted his many acres of corn that year, and made a bumper crop! This, to me, is a great example of the last line of my poem, “We are guarded by God’s hand!” He gave my father an opportunity to try again; and the second effort was very successful!

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    May 6, 2017 at 9:09 am

    Tipper–Before getting to Blackberry Winter, let me compliment you on a mighty fine piece of wordsmithing. Your “white tease of sweetness” to describe blackberries in bloom is first-rate.
    In much of the upcountry South I think Blackberry Winter is fairly predictable, and the same holds true for Dogwood Winter. To some extent Daddy, and to a much greater extent my Grandpa Joe, used to talk about “Catbird Squawl” (presumably the proper spelling would be “squall” but they pronounced it with a distinct “aw” sound) in referring to adverse spring weather. I’ve done a bit of research on the phrase to no avail so I thought I’d turn to a much more reliable source of wisdom for mountain talk and folkways–your readers. Is anyone familiar with or know anything about this phrase?
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    May 6, 2017 at 8:59 am

    I am a true believer, and maybe old timers sometimes made up their own name for these cold spells. I have also heard the cold spells in May simply called, “the cold May rains.” I do think we are in a mess of trouble after that mild winter. The bugs are already thick and ready to go. This is just something one notices when in tune with nature. The bug spray is kept handy with flies of different types especially pesky early. I like to get the garden in as early as possible before the garden pests have time to do all their procreating.

  • Reply
    May 6, 2017 at 8:33 am

    This is surely blackberry winter we are experiencing now. With frost expected Sunday and Monday morning, makes me glad my garden is not too far along. I heard this is the coldest Oaks race we have had in 61 years. Next week looks warmer with temperatures trying to reach 70 degrees.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    May 6, 2017 at 8:20 am

    It seems to always happen. My mother said we could always expect a cold snap just begore Easter. We always get one, each time it reminds me of her.

  • Reply
    Larry Griffith
    May 6, 2017 at 7:16 am

    I’m familiar with redbud and dogwood winter, but what is whipperwill winter?

  • Reply
    Larry Griffith
    May 6, 2017 at 7:16 am

    I’m familiar with redbud and dogwood winter, but what is whipperwill winter?

  • Reply
    Larry Griffith
    May 6, 2017 at 7:16 am

    I’m familiar with redbud and dogwood winter, but what is whipperwill winter?

  • Reply
    Larry Griffith
    May 6, 2017 at 7:16 am

    I’m familiar with redbud and dogwood winter, but what is whipperwill winter?

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    May 6, 2017 at 7:14 am

    All my life I’ve heard of Blackberry Winter and Dogwood Winter. I never doubted them because I could always feel them. It’s just part of spring. Spring comes but we have these little reminders of winter. I consider us very fortunate to live here in these mountains and fully experience each of the four seasons every single year!

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