In biennials and winter annuals, flowering is typically blocked in the first growing season. Exposure to the prolonged cold of winter, through a process called vernalization, is required to alleviate this block and permit flowering in the second growing season. In winter-annual types of Arabidopsis thaliana, a flowering repressor, FLOWERING LOCUS C (FLC), is expressed at levels that inhibit flowering in the first growing season. Vernalization promotes flowering by causing a repression of FLC that is mitotically stable after return to warm growing conditions. Here we identify a gene with a function in the measurement of the duration of cold exposure and in the establishment of the vernalized state. We show that this silencing involves changes in the modification of histones in FLC chromatin.