Is Lexington, KY the midwest??

chasinlex(zone 6/7)June 25, 2005

I have always thought of myself as "southern"...being from Lexington, KY. But this website groups KY in the midwest. I guess it is borderline midwest, but I still associate it with the upper south. Any comments from true "midwesterners" ??

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viburnumvalley(z5/6 KY)

I was raised in Nicholasville, lived in Lexington and Versailles, and now call Scott County home. I've never thought of myself as anything but a midwesterner, despite proximity to the real southerners south of here. Maybe it's because my parents were both born in Wisconsin.

If one remembered the winters of the mid '70s (-25F; forced changes to the plumbing codes; snow on the ground 50 straight days), mid to late '80s (-19F in December 1989) and most recently winter 1994 (-28F; -29C), associations with the south would remain cultural and historical, but not too much botanical. That's why I list myself as zone 5/6. Your favored list of plants tends to take it on the chin when KY gets real winter weather.

Definition of the Midwest certainly has shifted over time, and is altered by perspective (where you're standing). Have you noted the Midwest Gardening forum, where the NOTE says: "Only registered members from Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin are able to post messages here." Don't even want us there.

If it comes to blows, KY should be defined midwest since in the old days UK always was eligible to go to the NCAA Tournament in the Midwest Regional. Then again, UK plays in the Southeastern Conference (but as the northernmost team). Hmmm....maybe only Lexington is midwest, and the rest of the state can go their own way.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2005 at 9:58AM
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As an ex-Kentuckian, I always have thought of it as a border state, in somewhat the same category as West Virginia. It has gardening characteristics in common with the lower Midwest, but also with the upper South and to some extent the Northeast.

I wouldn't base my zone on the extremes of winter temps that come through every decade or so. The USDA system is designed around average winter lows. So Lexington is definitely zone 6.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2005 at 8:15AM
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sage_lover(z6 OH)

Just posted my first response on the midwest forum. After doing so I read thru other posts, and noticed they were mainly all from Chicago/Ill. areas. Oh well, it was a drought related topic, and most of us have that in common, unfortunatly.

I would not really think of Lexington as being in the midwest. The zone you are in is more important than this rather vague "midwest" label, as lol pointed out. ( Come to think of it, California is WEST! So should we not be mideast? )

    Bookmark   June 27, 2005 at 6:35PM
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viburnumvalley(z5/6 KY)

Sage Lover is right; UK used to play in the Mideast Regional. I have to take it all back.

One doesn't have to base their zone on weather extremes, but it sure helps to recognize these if you expect long term survivability of certain plants. Lexington was once populated with an awful lot of zone 6/7 broadleaf evergreens, till they were vanquished by the winters noted above.

A decade is a nice investment of time in a tree, or other components of a well-cared for landscape. It's a shame to lose all that due to insufficient knowledge of history.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2005 at 7:33AM
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mrsgeekboy(z6 SWOH)

Well, I'm from Ohio and have always thought it should not be considered Midwest, so I don't think Kentucky should be either.

Mideast would be more like it. Please! You can drive from Toledo (where I'm from) to NYC in about 9 hours, I think.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2005 at 1:11PM
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According to people in Iowa and Kansas, we're not Midwesterners either!

When I was growing up in Cincinnati we always said we were the northernmost of the South, the southernmost of the North, the easternmost of the MidWest, and the westernmost of the East.

And we claimed Northern Kentucky as part of our kingdom, mostly because the rest of the state ignored it.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2005 at 1:14PM
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I'm from extreme Southern Illinois....People from the northern end of my state would swear I'm from the deep South....and folks from Mississippi think I'm a Yankee (I'm no rebel, but I'm the farthest thing there is from being a Yankee)...

I think we're just sort of lost in the middle. Frankly, that's quite fine with me.

Midwesterners and values in the USofA!!

So to answer your doesn't matter...they're both pretty good folks. CLAIM THEM BOTH!!!

    Bookmark   June 28, 2005 at 10:53PM
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alanrocks(z6 KY)

I didn't intend to make up a rambling comment to this question, but there is no going back now! I think the midwest is an old term from the days when everything on the otherside of the Mississippi River was simply "The West." Because the midwest forum was zone 4 and 5 and the Ohio Valley is zone 5 & 6, I asked Spike to set up this forum. Admittedly I spend little time on this forum because my on-line time is limited. I also understand that the Arch in St. Louis was originally submitted to the folks of my home town Louisville to represent the "Gateway to the South" as it has been called. They said thanks, but no thanks... and blocked off the river from the community by constructing I-64 along the river. They have been unwinding that disasterous decision for several decades. It's looking good now. Now, does anyone care to "define" the Ohio Valley???

    Bookmark   June 29, 2005 at 10:05PM
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According to the Southern Living Garden Book, Kentucky is considered the Upper South. I am from Louisville and have always considered myself Southern.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2005 at 10:42AM
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Now, does anyone care to "define" the Ohio Valley???

Ask and you shall receive!

I grew up in Cincinnati, 10 miles from the Ohio River and obviously belonged on this forum. But now I live 100 miles north and east, and I figured I was a bit removed from the river valley.

But according to this map, the Ohio River Drainage Basin covers nearly all of the state of Ohio, pretty much all of Kentucky, and the edges of Indiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania and West Virginia -- just like it says on the forum header page!

(If you click on the link, roll your mouse over Ohio to see the drainage area boundaries brought up in red. I just found this site searching for a definition of the Ohio River Valley; if you're a map junkie like me this looks like a great site!)

Here is a link that might be useful: Ohio Drainage Basin

    Bookmark   July 7, 2005 at 1:58PM
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storygardener(5/6 central oh)

Thanks,'s another link with a map of the Ohio River Valley Ecosystem....

I have always considered Kentucky the beginning of the "south", myself.


Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   July 8, 2005 at 10:27AM
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I stumbled onto this site while researching trees, and I hope you don't mind if I join the discussion. I have lived all but three of my 48 years in Wisconsin, so I think that qualifies me as a true "midwesterner." First, I think the Blue Grass region is just a great place. I've vacationed there a few times and fell in love with it. I could be very content living there. But would they accept a Yankee?

Classifying a city/region depends upon if you're talking about climate, politics, culture, etc. Since this is a garden forum, I'm assuming you meant climate. In this case I'm with ViburnumValley and would think it has many more similarities to the midwest states than the deep south. One of the reasons I find Kentucky so appealing is that it has four distinct seasons, but a much milder winter than we typically get up here. Plus, you have long falls, which is my favorite time of year. Fall here is from mid September through October. You have a temperate continental climate.

If you're talking politically and culturally, it seems to me that Kentucky is more in line with the "true" southern states, at least if you follow recent voting patterns. And if you're talking sports, Kentucky is definitely south. Mr. Rupp would rollover in his grave if you tried to stick his Wildcats in the Big Ten. :)


    Bookmark   July 16, 2005 at 9:30AM
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Lexington, as well as Ashland, Cincinnati, Louisville, Evansville, Owensboro, Henderson, Paducah, Cairo, and everything else strung out inbetween along the Ohio River is Middle Border. Has been since about the 1830s, and if you listen real closely today, you will hear the proof. You gotta go over 50 miles north or south of the river to get into the Midwest or the South.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2005 at 5:37PM
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alligator(Zone 8b)

I stumbled into this. I spent 27 years of my life in KY [17 of it in Lexington] and think that Kentucky is more of its own entity and is neither northern or southern. It is a mix of both culturally, climatically, and politically.
One think that about gardening in much of Kentucky is that extra cold winters come often enough that one should stick with Zone 5 or hardier plants, but watch out for intolerance to heat as well.
As for the true south, we have alligators...

    Bookmark   August 20, 2005 at 11:01PM
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sunflowerlover_KY(z6 KY)


Yup, they accept Yankees here. :) I grew up on the coast in MA and lived in AZ and NV and am now in Louisville. They accept me just fine and I LOVE it here. Just don't like the fact it's the allergy capital of the world. I'm constantly sniffling, sneezing and coughing.

My mother-in-law grew up here and she considers Louisville, "south".


    Bookmark   August 24, 2005 at 12:08PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Northern Kentucky (the southern Cincy suburbs) has a more Midwestern "feel" than the rest of the state, which is definitely culturally "southern" in demeanor.

Climatologically, statewide is more a transistion zone. Winters are definitely cold in comparison to say, GA or AL. In fact they're about as cold as south Jersey or even NYC which is not considered "south" at all! Realistically, although your average winters in KY are warmer than mine by some 8 - 10 degrees, your absolute coldest are in line with what we've had here in Akron, OH (which was recently REclassified from zone 5b to 6) which is why you no longer see as many southern magnolias in Lexington or Louisville!

Driving from OH to GA down notice that KY vegetation pretty much mirrors Ohio except for all the kudzu along the roadsides which starts appearing south of Lexington. In TN it starts looking more Southern and moreso as you get to GA and see all the southern pines start to dominate.

KY isn't the only state without a definite classification. WV is similar-rural-southern in culture but more transitional in climate. Ohio is considered Midwest but is too hilly to really be compared to Kansas or Nebraska.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2005 at 2:58PM
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doniki(z5/6 NE Ohio)

I don't really know if I would consider anything in Kentucky to be "midwestern," it is much more Southern in my opinion...from my observations while traveling. I think "Midwest" is a better description for the Plains states.
I live in NE Ohio and maybe it is just a mindset of many people up here, but many of us sort of consider anything south of Columbus to be "The South." In fact as stated in a prior post, culturally the Cincinnati area is much more southern. Northern Ohio and Southern Ohio are very different culturally, socially and politically. In fact, many Clevelanders basically consider Cincinnati to be part of Kentucky rather than Ohio.
It's very true that the flora of Ohio and Kentucky are fairly similar. Plant speaking, not much changes until you get around Nashville, TN.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2005 at 2:41AM
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I've never heard Kentucky considered anything but a southern state. Heck northern Kentucky, right under Madison Indiana, has some of the most destinctive southern accents in the state, plus the entire state's under the dixie line. West Virginia is considered a borderline southern state although the southern parts are very very rural and "southern" in speech and living. I live at the northern most point of "southern" Indiana (3/4ths down the state) and although we're no doubt the midwest the further south you drive it's like a southern transformation from dull and flat northern Indiana. I've been through most of the southern states and I still consider Kentucky just as or more "southern" than southern states further down the map.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2007 at 3:32AM
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I always think of kentucky as the south, but figure that people farther south than us don't agree.

I live in arizona and california for 17 years and everyone there definitely considers kentucky the south. One person forgot where I was from and said, "oh, so you're from the midwest, right?" and then became so embarrassed and begged my forgiveness when she realized I was from kentucky. she said that of course kentucky is not the midwest.

So perhaps the perspective of whether ky is the midwest or the south depends on where the person lives who is doing the assessing.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2007 at 1:47PM
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I grew up in Kentucky also (which isn't that long I was a huge Wildcat's fan. Remember Lexington's Mark Snyder? Mark Snyder was great for Lexington. I was such a fan back then. Now he's in Michigan or somewhere like that.

I think that the answer is that Kentucky is a little bit of the south with a little bit of the midwest. The whole swath between Ohio and Western Florida is full of the midwest and midwesterners. It is the southern 'version' of the midwest. But like anywhere else in the world, as people and cultures and habits and language collide, you end up with hybrids. And that is what Kentucky is. That is what makes Kentucky, Kentucky!

    Bookmark   May 2, 2008 at 2:19PM
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Geographically, Kentucky is a South Eastern State. Geographically the Midwest starts with Missouri. Those states above the Ohio River which divides the two regions are North Eastern States. The Midwest term is something done years ago with the pioneers-It stuck. Lexington and Lousiville are considered Southern Cities-They are a part of the "Southern Living Magazine". Lexington is in no way North or Midwest--The culture and heritage are southern. Today, so many people have moved from the North into Kentucky and wants that Midwest to come with them. Kentucky has and always been a Southern State, even during the Civil War--Many get the word Confederate mixed with South.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2011 at 10:22AM
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Honestly. I think it's not really either distinctively, but a mix of both. It borders both. Midwest on one side-south on the other.....How could you have a state that borders BOTH midwest and south, yet only be influenced by the south?

Here is a link that might be useful: Kentucky Midwest or South

    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 3:22PM
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I was in Lexington earlier this week and visited the Joseph Beth bookstore, an old haunt which has expanded and is one of the best independent bookstores I've seen. When it comes to regional books/gardening guides, their selection unfortunately is heavily weighted towards volumes on southern gardening which have limited application, especially for those living in the northern half of the state.

"Kentucky has and always been a Southern State, even during the Civil War"

Have to disagree on that one. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Kentucky was officially neutral (Confederate-sympathizing governor, pro-Union legislature). Confederate troops established fortifications there, were challenged by Union forces and driven out, and ultimately the state remained in the Union camp for most of the war (various raids and battles were fought over that time). Nowadays Kentuckians only need concern themselves with colliding Northern and Southern air masses, making for interesting weather. :)

    Bookmark   November 26, 2011 at 11:56AM
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