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Early Spring Delights And Cautions

March 10, 2017
Outside my office window, the old Bradford pear tree at the corner of our building is at its white spring blossom best. It must be that heady month of April when things come alive and blooms burst open like birds in song.

The daffodils have been their showy, yellow highlight for the past 10 days or so.

Flocks of robins have been listening for worms on the green, grassy meadows of my local park.

But wait. The calendar only reads March 10. And the weekend forecast suggests we might still receive at least a pinch of winter seasoning.

I spoke with Annie Stanley, proprietor of Sappington Garden Center on Gravois Road near Sappington Road.

Stanley said she didn't recall another spring quite this early. She estimated we are three to four weeks ahead of "normal."

Stanley and I did not discuss whether or not the climate is changing.

Antarctic and Arctic sea ice coverage was recently reported at new record lows this year. February was one of the warmest on record and 2016 globally was the warmest year on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations.

"There seems to be no true pattern to our weather anymore," Stanley lamented. "How many times do we see a winter with no snow?

"It's kind of scary when we have these warm days and our pollinators start coming out," she added, noting the mild winter means we will contend with lots of insects in the coming year.

Stanley pointed to the forecast for low temperatures in the 20s for a few days upcoming.

She predicted those snowy Bradford pear blossoms and delicate pink magnolias will be dropping petals next week. Those brightly lit daffodils that grow in exposed areas will turn a weak, translucent yellow.

The tulips should be okay, she said, just a little tip burn. Some of the younger trees can be damaged by the yo-yo seasons of a warm winter, early spring and late cold snaps. The pattern puts them into a stressful state, said Stanley. Some may appear dead, but may leaf out later.

While spring-like days in winter invite gardeners to adopt an early season, Stanley warns to be cautious.

"We all want to jump the gun," she said.

It is too early to plant new perennials, she said. But hardy annuals like pansies and dianthus should stand up to some nips of cold.

It is a good time for clean-up, annual soil checks and putting down crab grass preventer, said Stanley. She urges caution about raking away just yet all of the protective debris around those old hydrangeas.

"Patience is our friend," Stanley advises eager gardeners.

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