Weather boosts business for gardening stores

Some still fear spring cold snap

March 22, 2012

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(Flickr/Paul Riismandel)
Daffodils growing in Chicago, much earlier than usual

Phones have been ringing off the hook since the end of February at the Gethsemane Garden Center in Chicago. Annual plant manager Carol Rice said the warm weather has had a big affect on sales for March.

"We're probably, you know, doing double or triple what we would at this time of year," Rice said.

As the city reached its eighth day of broken or tied weather records, Rice's business couldn't be better. She said it's the first time in her 16 years of working at the Andersonville/Edgewater store that she's had to order annual plants this early.

According to Boyce Tankersley from the Chicago Botanic Garden, the warm temperatures have pushed up the normal growing schedule by four to five weeks. He said everything from grass to fruit trees is seeing an excelerated growing pattern. An avid gardener, he's taken advantage of the warm weather himself, but he worries what could happen if the region experiences a cold snap.

"I'm really pinching pennies to buy the plants that I am to put around my garden and landscape at home, and the thought of having to go back and do it all over again, I just, I don't want to go there," Tankersley said.

Meteorologists haven't ruled out the possibility of temperatures dropping back to normal, or even below that. According to National Weather Service meteorologist Amy Seely, anything is possible.

"Think about it - we're well above normal now. There are many times in April we have have had a cold snap. I can't say exactly when we'll have one, but it's distinctly possible," Seeley said.

According to Seely, Chicago has seen late spring snowfall. In May of 1907, the city saw over an inch of snow accumulation, while residents saw 0.2 inches of snowfall in May of 1966.

Over at Gethsemane, Rice said she's ordered new cool-weather plants that can withstand temperatures around 40 degrees, just in case.