Apr. 17—Pity the poor pansy, petunia and peony.
Mother Nature threw spring a curve-ball Friday as 1 to 4 inches of snow fell across the Merrimack Valley and Southern New Hampshire, where warm weather and dry conditions earlier this month had kicked-started an early growth spurt of sorts.
But fear not, say weather prognosticators and gardening experts, help is on the way.
By Tuesday, the temperature should be close to 70 degrees in Essex and Middlesex counties and in the high 60s in Southern New Hampshire.
"The system is going to pull away and we will have a slow warming trend," said Andrew Loconto, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Norton, Massachusetts.
Tim Wolfe, owner of the Lake Street Garden Center in Salem, New Hampshire, advised calm for his customers.
"The pansies can take this," he said, noting that most flowers view the light coating of snow as just another source of much-needed H2O.
"Snow is like a blanket to them. They kind of laugh," he said. "For trees and shrubs, it is not of any consequence to them. It's good moisture the plants needed anyhow."
The bigger menace to early blossoming plants and trees, he said, is a hard frost. Fortunately, the temperature in Salem never dropped below 37 degrees. On average, the potential for frost will remain until about May 15, he added.
Meanwhile, area residents seemed unfazed by the slushy mess that coated lawns and driveways, in some cases creating a stunning backdrop for bright, pink cherry blossom trees and yellow forsythia bushes.
While city and town workers put some plows on the streets and shovels on walkways, most residents seemed to take the snow in stride.
Jessica Hunt, the manager at Rocky's Ace Hardware in North Andover, had a message for the weather gods.
"Old Man Winter tried to flex his guns one more time and we're not having it," she said, adding that nobody came into the store Friday looking for salt, snow shovels, or any other winter-related tools. "We didn't sell a single winter thing. Nobody wants to talk about it. We're all in denial."
She did sell some spring items, although it was a little slower than usual, given that the ground was not exactly conducive to gardening.
"We have all our flowers and spring materials out," she said.
Loconto at the NWS said it's not the first time New England has seen snow in mid-April. Just last year, he said, right around this same time the region was hit with a 2- to 5-inch snowfall event.
"To get snow in mid-April is not that uncommon," he said.
Looking ahead, he said, May in Southern New England will have "milder than average weather. May temperatures on the whole should trend above normal."
Rainfall should be average, he said, although up until this week's storm, most of the state was in drought conditions.
"With this rain, that's proving to be pretty beneficial," he said, adding that last year most of the state was in a drought.