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Winter Blast No Match For Daffodils

Ferns hang from the ceiling of a greenhouse at Sabo's Woodside Nursery in Madison. (Tony Ganzer/WCPN)
Ferns hang from the ceiling of a greenhouse at Sabo's Woodside Nursery in Madison. (Tony Ganzer/WCPN)

It is beginning to look like Spring again, after this week’s unexpected, and largely unappreciated, blast of winter this week. A string of days in the 70s prompted flowers to begin to bloom; some daffodils near ideastream's Tony Ganzer's house were looking healthy and strong. Then came the snow, which sent postures into a slouch. The snow was such a burden to the roof of a greenhouse in Madison, Ohio that it caved in. Cathee Thomas is the manager for Sabo’s Woodside Nursery at that location. She’s also a board member with the Greater Cleveland Flower Growers Association. She spoke with Ganzer today about the last snow, and what garden hobbyists can expect this season.

THOMAS: “So we came down, and it was filled with of snow, and we had some of the perennials we had carried over, some of my Hellebores, they’re really early, And that’s one of the things homeowners are going to see right now is the cross-over of plants. Things that are normally really early, the Lenten rose or Hellebore, are some are just coming into bloom now and normally they would be in bloom, you know, March, early March they would be full out.”

GANZER: I’ve been told by many people that the weather in Northeast Ohio changes very often, but I was shocked that we had two days of 70-80 degrees and then all of sudden snow, three inches of snow. Is this weird for you?

THOMAS: “No, it’s normal. We used to do a grand opening in the spring. Several years ago we figured ok, the last weekend in April, a safe weekend. Well, no. You go with it, and if you live in Northeast Ohio you have to learn to go with the flow. ”

GANZER: “In terms of plant health, I mention my daffodils in front of my house, they drooped down and looked like the saddest flowers I’ve ever seen after that snow…will flowers like that come back, or what should home gardeners think about with this weather?”

THOMAS: “I love bulbs because they will snap back. They get some snow cover on them, the crocus the daffodils, even the pansies, this is surprising you know they say oh you’re such a pansy. That’s a compliment. If you’re a pansy, you’re hardy, you’re tough. So why they think it’s something weak and flimsy…it’s not.”

GANZER: That’s a strong flower.

THOMAS: “Yes it is.”

GANZER: Cathee Thomas says Sabo’s nursery is about 30 acres. Each greenhouse holds either different plants, or plants in different stages of growth. In one greenhouse the floor is covered with hanging baskets, which stay sitting until they are lush and healthy enough.

THOMAS: “So we have to leave them on the floor of the greenhouse until they get to that point before we put them up, and that delays the next round of plants that need that floor space. When things are slower to get to their final destination, that backs up the whole line. So yeah, winter is bad.”

GANZER: Does that..it affects practically how you’re growing your product, but does it affect your business largely too. Do you have to tell clients you have to wait to buy those plants you’re looking for?

THOMAS: “Oh yeah. We have people calling for tomatoes and we have to…do you have a greenhouse? You don’t want to put them out yet. You need to make sure you have a place to grow it and keep it healthy until you can put it out and around here that’s until at least May.”

GANZER: There isn’t a lot of money in the nursery game. Thomas says she grew up gardening, and loves it, but she still has another job to go with this one.

THOMAS: “The profit margin is really very small. And when the cost of fertilizers, or the cost of anything, goes up, plastics, can be expensive. So all of that goes into cutting our margin, and there is only so much you can raise your prices. We hold it as the same as lost as we can possibly survive with. A lot of businesses don’t want to do that. And it’s like ‘oh we can’t sell it.’ Well it’s like, how many of our friends have gone out of business because they won’t raise their prices. I’m sorry, but you have to charge a little more than it costs to produce.”

Tony Ganzer has reported from Phoenix to Cairo, and was the host of 90.3's "All Things Considered." He was previously a correspondent with the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, covering issues like Swiss banks, Parliament, and refugees. He earned an M.A. in International Relations (University of Leicester); and a B.Sc. in Journalism (University of Idaho.) He speaks German, and a bit of French.