Spring fever fuels gardening frenzy

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News,Business

MONROE, La. (AP) — Cynthia Brackins loves feeling the earth in her hands, turning the spring soil before depositing colorful splashes of bright blossoms as if her beds were a canvas.

"Spring is my favorite time of the year," said Brackins, of West Monroe, who was shopping at Sammy's Plant World. "I've come to buy bedding plants and roses. It's time to spruce up the beds and fill in the bare spots."

Business is booming at local nurseries as the area emerges from an unusually cold winter. Even without the long winter, a late Easter would have compressed the peak season.

"So far this is the best spring we've had," said Sammy Ramazani of Sammy's. "All of the nursery businesses are happy. Many of our customers complained that they lost plants during the winter, so they want to replace them. Everybody has spring fever."

John Thomas, who owns Thomas Nursery and Feed in Farmerville, said his business is up, too, but he attributed most of that to the shortened peak season.

"What happens is we have a shorter peak, so we have to have all of our guns loaded and ready with plenty of merchandise and staff to accommodate the customers," Thomas said.

Thomas said his peak season usually begins on the Good Friday before Easter and begins to wind down by Memorial Day. "That's when the kids get out of school and people start thinking about vacations instead of gardening," he said.

Sonny Panzico, who owns Panzico's Garden Marts in Monroe and West Monroe, said spring for nurseries is like the Christmas holiday season for other retailers.

"It's a very, very seasonal selling business," he said. "It's either feast or famine. In January and February, it's tough. But in the spring we start paying our bills."

Debbie Keiffer of West Monroe was shopping for lavender and marigolds with her 4-year-old granddaughter Harlee Keiffer.

"Lavender is supposed to keep the mosquitoes away," Keiffer said as young Harlee was sniffing flowers at Sammy's.

"I love the outdoors, and I'm teaching my grandbaby to love the outdoors and flowers," she said. "It's wonderful to be outdoors on days like today."

Ramazani said now is the time to spruce up beds and lawns.

"Make sure your soil is right and you water properly, especially just after plantings," he said. "Water during the early morning or evening. Avoid watering during the middle of the day, especially when it gets hotter."

Ramazini recommends covering beds with mulch such as pine straw or cypress.

"It's keeps the soil cooler and helps it retain moisture," he said.

Even as Ramazini was being interviewed, he went from one customer to the next offering help and tips.

"We have to maximize this peak season," Ramazini said. "It only comes around once a year."

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Information from: The News-Star, http://www.thenewsstar.com

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