5/4/2013 7:00 AM
By Jane W. Graham Virginia Correspondent
The old saying is "April showers bring May flowers." But as the growing season moves into May, greenhouse owners and would-be gardeners are wondering just when it will happen.
Dave Wirt, meteorologist manager with the National Weather Service's Blacksburg station, predicts that in two weeks no one will bother that there was a late spring. Wirt made his prediction April 30.
Cary Gouldin with Stranges's Greenhouses in Richmond, Va., is hoping May and June see a lot of sales after a terrible March for sales and a modest April. Both colder weather and lots of rain have contributed to slow sales, he said.
There are more than 35,000 florists in the U.S. and 20,000 are members of FTD. Strange's ranks among the top 25 in FTD. It is one of Virginia's largest greenhouse growers, and one of the largest retail garden centers in the United States, according to its website.
Jim Snyder, owner of Riverbend Nursery in Riner, Va., a wholesale nursery, sees his sales rising to normal by Mother's Day after a slow start. He said the cool spring put his sales two to two-and-a-half weeks behind at the start of the season, but things are catching up to normal.
Riverbend Nursery is a progressive container grower of quality perennials, herbs, groundcovers and ornamental grasses. Riverbend sells to independent garden centers, landscapers and distributors, primarily in the mid-Atlantic states.
"We were spoiled last year," Snyder said.
The sharp difference in temperatures between the two years has been the major factor in the difference in his sales, Snyder said. He quoted news reports saying last spring temperatures were 70 percent above normal. This year, reports are that temperatures are 70 percent below normal.
"Í think this year is a little more normal than last year," Gouldin said. "As long as sales go into May and June" it will be good.
If sales were to fall off after May 1, he continued, it could be tragic for some people in the business.
"Last year was extremely atypical," Wirt said. "It was so mild so early for so long the growing season began so early. Trees were in leaf in late March and early April. This year we are two weeks behind."
He said these kinds of extremes are why the weather service uses 30-year averages when looking at possible climate change.
"This year was unusually cold in all of March. Then in April we began to catch up," Wirt said.
He said the cold damp days in recent weeks are not as important as the nighttime temperatures. As long as the lows are not in the 30s, the trees like it, he said. The insulating clouds that have kept the sun's warmth from breaking through have also kept temperatures from falling at night. Coupled with the humidity, this has caused the trees to explode with leaves, he said.
Wirt said he does not see any more frost in the picture for this spring. He cautioned, however, that the soils need to warm up before much planting can be done. Cold soils can cause sensitive seeds to rot rather than sprout, said the weatherman who also enjoys gardening.