Gardening: What a difference a year makes

4/13/2013

Message to gardeners: Don't judge how landscape plants will behave based on last year.

Message to gardeners: Don't judge how landscape plants will behave based on last year.

"What a difference a year makes," said Kansas State University horticulturist Ward Upham, adding that by mid-March of last year, winter honeysuckle, red maple, flowering pear, forsythia and more were in full bloom because of unseasonably warm weather early in the year. By the first of April even more plants were blooming, like apple fruiting pear, flowering dogwood and Vanhoutte spirea. But this year, the only one of those plants that was in full bloom on April 1 was winter honeysuckle.

"It's important to remember," Upham said, "that last year we were two to three weeks ahead of normal, and so we might not be as far behind as it first appears. However, we are behind."

Forsythia, for example, typically is in full bloom about the third week in March.

"Since 2005, the earliest we have seen full bloom on forsythia was March 10, 2006, and the latest was April 5, 2008," he said. "Therefore, it appears we are about two weeks behind normal and about a month behind last year."

That does not mean that the spring growing season will stay two weeks behind normal, Upham added.

Below-normal temperatures will cause plants to lag even further, while above-normal temperatures would allow plants to at least partially catch up.

"Regardless, it appears that 'normal' in Kansas is just an average of extremes," Upham said.

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