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Quirky Weather Confuses Blooms

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RALEIGH — Mild winter weather may cheer us, and it's definitely nice not to have to deal with treacherous ice storms. But gardeners are worried; the blooms coming out so early may be nipped if cold weather decides to return.

And that would mean spring could be a little less colorful compared to years past.

Daffodils are starting to wave their yellow heads, and buds are coming out on many flowering trees and shrubs in the area.

That's about five to six weeks ahead of schedule, thanks to the unseasonably warm temperatures.

If winter returns, many of the blooms can be killed by the cold, and others will be frozen out before they can open properly.

If the thermometer does take a nose-dive in the next few weeks, horticulturalists advise homeowners to try to protect their plants.

Burlap is the best fabric to use -- it provides some insulation, and the open weave allows the next day's heat to dissipate properly. Swathing plants in plastic can be done but only for overnight; it must be removed before the sun creates condensation and sweats the plant. Depending on the shrub's size and strength, a bedsheet or lightweight towels can also be draped over them.

Of course, if your azaleas are huge, your gardenias gargantuan, then it's simply impossible to arrange a covering for them. In that case, just hope Mother Nature doesn't deal too long a cold snap.

For the most part you needn't worry about daffodils, even if their foliage and blooms are several inches above ground. Unless there is a lengthy spell of cold weather or an ice storm, they usually survive better than the worried gardener peering out the living room window at the bad weather!