More frowns than flowers as April chill refuses to budge

Dutch's Greenhouse owner Jerry DeRee checks roses in one of his greenhouses Friday. "Normally we would have had these out two weeks ago," he said, "It's been a real roller coaster this year."
Dutch's Greenhouse owner Jerry DeRee checks roses in one of his greenhouses Friday. "Normally we would have had these out two weeks ago," he said, "It's been a real roller coaster this year." The Wichita Eagle

Jerry DeRee has spent his entire life paying close attention to spring.

His parents started Dutch's Greenhouse in south Wichita decades ago and now he and his brother own it. Spring is when nurseries make their money.

As late April beckons, Dutch's and other local greenhouses and nurseries are still waiting for spring to arrive.

"It’s been a challenge," DeRee said Friday . "It’s been more than a challenge.

"I’ve got to be honest with you: I grew up in this business. ... I've never seen one start this late."

While Wichita hasn't seen the snow much of the rest of the state has this April, cold temperatures have still forced gardening businesses to bring in vulnerable plants and delay bringing others outdoors for customers to look over.

"It has slowed business down some," said Tiffany Sabaj, assistant manager at the Johnson's Garden Centers near 21st and Woodlawn. "People are scared to buy their plants."

The cold, chilly weather in southern Kansas has also wrecked plans for numerous outdoor events. Among the casualties earlier this month was the Support Local Law Enforcement Parade, which was pushed back until next month.

Several more events planned for this Saturday — some of which have already been postponed once — have been called off due to the rainy, chilly conditions anticipated.

They include the Outdoor Kansas for Kids Day and the Play Healthy ICT events, both at O.J. Watson Park. The 25th Annual Family Carnival planned for Saturday afternoon on the campus of Wichita State has been pushed back to April 28.

The city's downtown clean-up planned for Saturday has also been canceled.

The Cars and Coffee event at The Alley has been postponed, and Andover Central's outdoor "Rumble in the Jungle" has been delayed until May.

Several sporting events in the region have been postponed. The outdoor vintage market scheduled for Saturday at Paramount Antique Mall on West Highway 54 has been canceled, too.

The Bark in the Park planned for Saturday in Newton has been postponed until May 12.

I think every year has its own hurdle or two," said Carin Sander, who is the grower at Hillside Feed and Seed. "We’ll take this over years that it just stays cloudy and rainy.

"When it's cloudy and rainy, people don't like to shop in that weather and the plants get restless."

Restless plants start growing in their temporary containers or wilt and lose their appeal.

The cold start to this spring "is definitely affecting us," Sander said. "The sheer effort we have to put into covering things and moving things in for the night, plus extra expenses for extra heat ...."

"Many of us have prepurchased goods on credit," she said. "Most of those are 'May terms'" — meaning they'll be paid for in May after the spring buying surge.

But there's been no buying surge because folks are waiting for warm weather to arrive.

DeRee, for one, remains optimistic.

"This week, it's actually finally starting to pick up," he said. "We’ve had a lot of folks come in and look around and say 'Don't worry, we'll be back.'

"We’re optimistic that it will still play out."

While they're waiting for warmer weather to arrive, gardeners should do all the prep work they can, nursery officials say.

That may mean amending garden soil or applying fertilizer or otherwise preparing the soil for planting.

"I would probably tell them to try to free up their schedule and try not to cram in everything on the weekend," Sander said. "It always seems like it’s a nice day during the week."

Nicer weather may finally arrive next week in the Wichita area, forecasters say. Mostly sunny days are anticipated, with highs in the 60s early and the 70s late in the week.