Will there be colorful azaleas to brighten the backdrop of Masters Week in Augusta? The answer depends on who knows Mother Nature best.
Clyde Lester, former Richmond County extension agent, thinks the azaleas, which have started to bloom, will be past peak but still showing plenty of color at Augusta National Golf Club.
“There will be some blooms out there, I guarantee you. I just know there will be,” Lester said.
But Sid Mullis, the current county extention agent, said the blooms will have come and gone by April 8 when Masters Week begins. Spring was early, similar to last year when Augusta had very little of its famed blooms to show off.
“Virtually all the color was gone last year and it’s looking more and more like a repeat of last year,” Mullis said.
Lester and Mullis agree that a January warm spell and subsequent erratic temperatures caused some buds to pop open ahead of schedule, but others have yet to bloom.
The average peak bloom date for Formosa-variety azaleas is March 30, said Lester, who collected data over 20 years.
“The show-stopper is that Formosa,” he said. “That’s the one that takes your breath away.”
Spring, which begins today, will get off to a cool start, with temperatures below normal highs of about 70 degrees.
Today’s high will reach the lower 60s, and temperatures through Sunday will top out in the mid- to upper-50s, said Jeff Linton, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Columbia.
Low temperatures tonight and Thursday night will dip into the mid-30s, down to freezing in low-lying areas. There’s a possibility of rain Friday, increasing to a 60 percent chance on Saturday, Linton said.
Milder weather will help keep blooms around longer, Lester said. Dogwoods should peak March 25 and stay around for Easter, on March 31, and the golf tournament, he said.