Winter weather delays plants, crops

May 11, 2014
Dan Boyan, a worker at Sherwood Nursery in Cecil Township, takes down a basket of red nonstop begonias to be transported to their retail store along Route 19 in South Strabane Township. - Jim McNutt / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

Flowers are a Mother’s Day favorite. Whether it’s a bouquet, a flat of her preferred annuals or perennials or a hanging basket, people flock to nearby locations to pick one or two out for their mom. But this year’s harsh winter may complicated things.

Several local greenhouses and nurseries said the harsh winter weather – mainly the long, deep freezes – resulted in the delay or damage of their products. As a result, some places had a minimal amount of products to sell for Mother’s Day.

Val Sciaffoni, co-owner of Sherwood Nursery and Greenhouse, located in Washington and Canonsburg, said their greenhouses are packed with flowers and plants. But they’re not ready for purchase.

“Everything is delayed,” Sciaffoni said. “A lot of stuff is under cover, but not quite ready. The weather is pushing the season on us because it’s so warm. People are asking for things.”

And Sciaffoni is telling them their items just aren’t ready. While some people were fine with that response, she’s sure others have gone elsewhere.

“It probably will affect us.”

Sherwood isn’t alone. While some greenhouses and nurseries were less affected than others, most just don’t have the stock to meet the sudden demand that erupted with the nice weather last week. Add Mother’s Day into the mix, and some owners were concerned.

At Joseph’s Nursery and Garden Center in Monessen, co-owner Michael Joseph said anything not grown in a greenhouse took a hit.

“What was in the fields, the deer did a lot of damage to the plants,” he said. “All the buds on the zinnias and rhododendrons, the deer spoiled. The groundhogs ate all the bark off the trees, as well.”

After 60-some years in business, Joseph said this was the first time wildlife had such an impact. While it’s an inconvenience, he said it’s not a total loss.

“It didn’t kill them,” he said. “But it did set them back. There won’t be any buds or flowers this year.”

Joseph said this past winter was difficult on everybody.

“I can’t remember when we had a winter that lasted so long. The snow stayed on so long that it froze things from the stem. Everything is going to be late coming out.”

JoAnn Andrews, owner of Silver Creek Nursery, in McDonald said ground cover was especially affected this year. Andrews said she specializes in ground cover and never witnessed ivy “do what it did this year.”

“I have ivy in my greenhouse that isn’t doing a thing. It’s just sitting there,” Andrews said. “And in people’s yards, it just burned out.”

She said local landscaping companies are calling looking for solutions.

“Ivy should have been ready,” she said. “It stayed cold too long. I have a line of people waiting for it.”

The cold weather didn’t affect just flowers, plants and shrubs. Entire fruit and vegetable crops took a hit. At Simmons Farm in McMurray, this year’s peach crop froze.

Co-owner Scott Simmons said there were “just too many days below minus-5 degrees.”

“The cold kills the buds,” he said. “But the trees are alive.”

The weather also affected Simmons’ strawberry crop. Simmons said the berries are normally ready around May 25, the first week of June at the latest.

“I don’t think we’ll see any until June 10. Everything is behind in its normal schedule.”

That includes items grown in their greenhouses. Simmons said the annuals, perennials and hanging baskets are about “10 days behind.”

And it’s already taking a toll on business.

“Our business is off,” Simmons said. “We haven’t sold much yet. But we’re ready. It didn’t affect the quality of plants. They are just behind.”

Francesca Sacco joined the Observer-Reporter as a staff writer in November 2013, and covers the Washington County Courthouse and education. Prior to working with the Observer-Reporter, Francesca was a staff writer with a Gannett paper in Ohio. She graduated from Point Park University with a dual bachelor’s degree in print and broadcast journalism.

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