The frost may still be on the windshields in the morning, but February's unseasonable stretch of sunny weather has some gardeners already thinking peas, potatoes, pansies and petunias.

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The frost may still be on the windshields in the morning, but February’s unseasonable stretch of sunny weather has some gardeners already thinking peas, potatoes, pansies and petunias.

It’s got die-hard festival-goers and merchants worried that the green shoots in their front yards might mean parades without the main attraction — daffodils and tulips — come April.

Morning chill aside, the month so far has indeed been dry and sunny, says National Weather Service meteorologist Allen Kam. It could be one for the record books, with cold nights and sunny days that began Feb. 7 and were broken only by traces of rain on Feb. 12, 13 and 14.

More bright skies were expected to finish off the month — which could make February 2005 the third-driest February on record (the driest was in 1993, the second-driest in 1988 and third-driest-to-date in 1977).

Rainfall so far this month is but .96 inch, compared with the 4.27 inches that’s normal for this time of year.

Only a veritable soaking between now and Monday night could stop this month from taking over the third spot, Kam said, and that’s not likely to happen.

A weather system shifting toward the east today could bring the Seattle area some of the warmest temperatures seen this month — upward of 60 degrees, Kam said — though “there is a teeny chance of rain” as the weekend approaches.

Gardeners — both the backyard variety and those who do it on a grander scale for such events as the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival and the Tacoma Daffodil Festival — have long had to deal with Mother Nature’s whims.

To ensure a bounty of the golden flowers come April, growers who supply the daffodil festival cut some of the blooms in January, put them in cold storage and, just before they’re needed, soak the stalks in warm water. That forces them to bloom, said Ernie Ouellette, a festival volunteer for the past 18 years.

Even so, “you always worry if they are going to be too early,” he said. “But we’ve never had a year without daffodils.”

In the Skagit Valley, tulips began poking their shoots up in January, alarming many who count on the spectacular array of color in the fields to attract thousands of visitors each spring.

Festival executive director Cindy Verge said January, too, saw some warmer-than-normal temperatures.

That “did wake everything up and it started growing,” she said, but February nights in the valley have dipped way below freezing, and that has kept the bulbs from blooming.

The festival will have two special display gardens filled with tulips that have been planted and tended to coincide with the monthlong festival in April.

Home gardeners are feeling urge-to-plant pangs early.

“We have a lot of people come in who are very excited for spring,” said Stephanie Ingersoll, a cashier at Furney’s Nursery in SeaTac. While shrubs could be planted outdoors now, care should be taken to cover tender plants at night, she said. And, of course, seeds will be better off started indoors and transferred outdoors later.

As for Kam, he likes the sunny weather. “It’s a breath of fresh air not to be duking it out with Mother Nature on a day-in and day-out basis with wind and rain.”

Nancy Bartley: 206-464-8522 or nbartley@seattletimes.com