The Ten Seasons of Phenology

Yesterday I looked into the meaning and history of phenology, but this is actually a very current topic here in Germany; the German Meteorological Service (Deutscher Wetterdienst) uses ten phenological seasons to observe and predict not only weather patterns but also climate change, pollen, late frosts for fruit trees etc.

I thought this might be of interest to gardeners in other parts of the world, where obviously there will be differences, but also very many similarities in the northern hemisphere. So here is a summary of the ten seasons they divide the year into here:

  • The hazel, snowdrop and winter aconite are signs that winter is over, and Vorfrühling (prespring) has begun. This season ends with the crocus, cornel and pussy willow coming into flower.


  • The Forsythia blossom signifies Erstfrühling (early spring), along with daffodils and wood anemones being in full bloom. Time to sow peas, give your lawn some feed and prune your roses. When the European Beech unfurls its leaves this season ends.


  • Vollfrühling (full spring) is characterised by apple and cherry blossom, the cuckoo calling and the lilac in full bloom. Later the raspberries also begin to flower and in central and eastern Europe the Ice Saints from 11th to 15th May are traditionally the days when the last frosts or at least cooler nights are expected. Then summer annuals can safely be planted out.

Wild Apple Blossom

Wild Apple Blossom

  • Frühsommer (early summer) is the season where the fragrance of elderflowers fills the air and dots of scarlet field poppies brighten up the countryside. The first hay can now be cut.


  • The next season, Hochsommer (midsummer), is characterised by the potatoes flowering, the gooseberries and redcurrants ripening and the linden (lime) trees coming into flower (another wonderful scent!).


Linden flowers, Wikimedia Commons


  • Spätsommer (late summer) is when the apples start to ripen, the rowan berries turn red and the golden rod glows; cereal crops are now harvested and the meadows can be cut for hay a second time round. The elder is just starting to ripen as this season draws to a close.


  • When the elderberries are ripe and being eaten by the birds, and when you see the first autumn crocus then Frühherbst (early autumn) is here. Most apples, plums and pears ripen in this season and a period of fine weather is very common. The swallows fly south for winter. Time to divide some plants and do some autumn planting!


  • Vollherbst (full autumn) can be recognized by the change in colour of the chestnut leaves and beech. Time to harvest the potatoes and many other vegetables too!


  • Autumn can no longer be denied in Spätherbst (late autumn) with the general falling of leaves and the autumn colours. The last bulb planting should be done, and any less hardy plants covered or brought indoors. The larch needles have started yellowing and as they drop the vegetation period ends.


  • And Winter (winter) arrives. Time for the gardener to relax (unless you have fruit trees to prune, that is!).


So now you know we don’t just have Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter!

Do you think it is helpful to look at the seasons in this way? Is there any particular sign from nature that you always look out for with regard to gardening jobs? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

Happy Easter everyone!