Extra cold winter delays blooms on some spring plants

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 4, 2010

A normally watercolored Natchez looks more like a pencil sketch so far this spring.

The bursts of colors that are usually sprouting in flowerbeds and from shrubbery each March and April were stalled by an unusually bitter winter, but soon, with a little more sunshine, Natchez should be a rainbow of color once again.

Adams County MSU Extension Service Director David Carter said the delay in color should come to an end soon.

“I think the first thing we need to do is remember to be patient,” Carter said. “We had a rough winter, and a lot of (blooming) got pushed back.”

He said typically by this time of year Natchez is covered with shades of pink from azaleas. And while there are only patches of azaleas in full bloom right now, Carter is encouraged by that growth.

“Things are finally beginning to come in,” he said. “A lot of people are worried, but I believe things are just going to come in a week or so slower.”

Marsha Colson, director of Natchez Pilgrimage Tours said locals aren’t the only ones who enjoy Natchez in full bloom.

“Our visitors who come to Natchez enjoy seeing the flowers in bloom as a compliment to the house tours and other entertainment they are enjoying,” she said. “I think the weather we have had has compensated for the lack of some blooms. Most people, after the winter we had and others experienced, are just happy to be somewhere that is at least starting to look pretty.”

Colson said as different as the landscape looked during the first few weeks of Pilgrimage, the late bloom will actually be a benefit for visitors who are in town for the last week of Spring Pilgrimage.

“I (heard from someone) recently who is planning to be here on April 6 and asked what would be in bloom at that time,” Colson said. “I said ‘You are probably planning your trip at just the right time.’

“Usually by now the azaleas would be gone and tattered all over the ground.”

Carter said his office has received several calls from concerned gardeners who fear the cold weather didn’t just stall the blooms, but killed them altogether.

“What I tell them is to just give it time,” he said. “If you can see blooms, and they are starting to swell, then your plant is OK.

“We have such a large variety of azaleas here in Natchez, and many of them are on different blooming schedules. Many of our plants have been here for a long time. They’ve been through these situations before and always come back.”

The same weather that has stalled the early spring blooms also stalled the late winter blooms, Colson said. And that has been an unexpected gift for many associated with Spring Pilgrimage, she said.

“A lot of things that usually bloom in January and are gone by the time Pilgrimage comes around are still here,” Colson said. “Our camellias have been wonderful this year. The blossoms themselves have been bigger and more per plant so that has been a good surprise.”

But Carter warns against trying to hurry up the blooming process with over-management of flowers and shrubbery.

“This is not something we can turn around or force,” he said. “The best thing to do is let Mother Nature do the healing. She can usually do a little better than we can anyway.”