Growing Great Daffodils

Friday, September 25th, 2015 by Jenny Watts
    • Replace tired petunias with bright pansies, snapdragons, calendulas and stock for garden color this fall and winter.
    • Plant cover crops in areas of the garden that have finished producing for the summer. Crimson clover and fava beans will grow over the winter and enrich the soil for next year.
    • It’s time to divide overgrown perennials that bloomed in the spring or early summer. It’s also a good time to choose and plant some new varieties.
    • Apples, pears and other fruit trees can be planted in the fall from containers to get a head start on next spring.
    • Mums are the beauties of the fall garden. Choose plants now in a wide variety of colors.

Growing Great Daffodils

Daffodils are some of the easiest bulbs to grow. Under good growing conditions, they will live for many years and probably outlast any of us. While some kinds of bulbs tend to dwindle and die out, daffodils increase.

Daffodils, Narcissi, Jonquils and Paperwhites are all essentially variants of the same flower: they are all members of the genus Narcissus. Here we will talk about the most popular Daffodils: the trumpet Daffodils and the long cup Daffodils.

Trumpet Daffodils have the “traditional” daffodil form: there is one large blossom per stem and the trumpet is exceptionally long. They have a long blooming season and very large flowers. They are excellent for naturalizing.

The well-known ‘King Alfreds’ with their bright yellow, trumpet flowers have largely been replaced by better varieties such as ‘Dutch Master.’ Now the standard of yellow trumpet daffodils, it is an heirloom variety introduced in 1938.

Long cup Daffodils have the full color range: white, and every possible shade of yellow, pink, orange, and red. They come in a wide variety of cup shapes: ruffled, trumpet-like or flat. They are good for beds, borders, as cut flowers, and for indoor forcing.

To grow great daffodils you should choose a well-drained, sunny place. Hillsides are excellent spots to place drifts of bulbs where they will make an eye-catching display for passersby. Creek-sides, shrub borders, woodland gardens and raised beds are ideal, but drainage is the key. Spade at least twelve inches deep adding a little well-rotted compost to heavy soils.

If planted properly, naturalized bulbs can live and bloom for many years with a minimum of care. When planting bulbs in a natural area to be left undisturbed for years, plant them deeply, so that their tops are at least eight inches deep.

Daffodils will grow in the shade of deciduous trees because they finish flowering by the time deciduous trees leaf out. However, it is better to grow them outside the drip line of deciduous trees rather than under them. Daffodils will not survive for a long time under evergreen trees and shrubs.

One reason for the longevity of daffodils is that squirrels, gophers and other rodents will not eat them. Deer also tend to leave them alone.

Daffodils bloom for almost six weeks in the spring garden. After blooming, leave the bulbs alone while the foliage is still green. The green leaves are rebuilding the bulb for the next year, and this is a good time to fertilize your bulbs. When the leaves begin to yellow, then you can cut the leaves off but not before.

Daffodils multiply, and after a few years you may need to thin them out, if they become crowded and are not blooming well. Dig them up in midsummer and replant them six inches apart.

In some cases, daffodils can be grown with ground covers. They do well planted with shallow-rooted, trailing plants, such as potentilla, creeping thyme and blue star creeper, but vigorous and deeply rooting plants, such as rosemary and ivy are likely to discourage daffodils.

“A host of golden daffodils” is certainly one of the glories of spring, and now is the time to plant daffodil bulbs. Plant a variety of daffodils for a wonderful display in the garden and beautiful bouquets in the home.

Fragrant Narcissus

Saturday, October 29th, 2011 by Jenny Watts
    • Naked lady amaryllis have lovely, fragrant pink flowers that bloom in late summer with little or no care. Plant the bulbs, available at local nurseries, now.
    • Protect the pond from the worst of the leaf fall with a fine-mesh net over the surface of the pond.
    • Plant pansies, snapdragons, stock, calendulas and primroses now to replace summer annuals.
    • Look for rich, bright colors in the foliage of deciduous trees and shrubs. Burning bush, fothergilla, snowball bush and maple trees are beautiful right now.
    • Garlic sets can be planted now for an easy crop that you can harvest next spring. Choose from hard-neck, soft-neck or Elephant garlic varieties now available.

Enjoy the Sweet Fragrance of Paperwhites

Paperwhites are miniature Narcissus that produce bunches of fragrant, white or yellow flowers. They are the easiest winter bulbs to bring into flowering indoors. In fact, doing so is a tradition for many people. Their bright flowers and sweet fragrance can brighten up even the dreariest winter day.

A point of confusion often arises over the use of the name Narcissus. Narcissus is the botanical name for the genus that includes many similar spring-flowering bulbs. The larger, trumpet flowers are commonly called Daffodils while the small flowered Paperwhites and China Lilies are commonly called Narcissus.

Paperwhites are quite easy to force into early bloom, as they are native to the Mediterranean region and don’t require cold temperatures to blossom. The first step is buying the bulbs. Bigger is better in this case, as these bulbs will produce more and larger flowers. Bulbs are sold by circumference: the distance around the bulb, like a belt. Narcissus which are 16-17 cm. (or 6-1/2 inches) around will be about 2-1/4 inches in diameter, and are a good size for forcing.

Narcissus can be grown in bowls with pebbles in water, or in pots with potting soil. To grow in water, select a bowl 4 to 6 inches deep; fill it with pebbles; nestle the bulbs into the pebbles about half way. The bulbs should almost be touching each other.

Add only enough water to just touch the base of the bulbs. Check the level twice a week and add a little water as needed to keep the level fairly constant. As the roots emerge, they will work their way down into the water.

To grow them in pots, select a shallow pot with drainage holes, and plant the bulbs so that just their tips are showing. Water the pot and keep it just barely moist until the bulbs sprout. Then keep the soil evenly moist.

Put the containers in a cool, shaded room until the leaves reach 3 inches tall. Then bring the plants gradually into the light over a period of about a week and watch them bloom.

They will bloom in 4 to 6 weeks from the time you plant them. Paperwhites are the fastest bloomers. You can plan ahead for lovely, fragrant table decorations for the holiday season by timing your planting correctly.

You might make two plantings a week apart to be sure of having flowers at the perfect stage for your holiday table.

Narcissus can also be grown outdoors in the ground. Plant them 5 inches deep and 6 inches apart in a sunny location. They will be some of the first bulbs to bloom in the spring, and will delight you with their fragrant blossoms every year.

Time to plant spring-flowering bulbs

Saturday, November 6th, 2010 by Jenny Watts

Hope Springs Eternal

Spring-flowering bulbs are such a welcome sight when they begin blooming in early February. Although these bulbs produce their flowers in the spring, they must be planted in the fall. Spring flowering tulip, hyacinth, daffodil, crocus and iris bulbs can be planted now so you can enjoy that profusion of color the next spring.

Groupings of bulbs throughout the landscape will accent and highlight the garden. When used in naturalized settings of tall evergreens or among trees and broadleaf evergreens, they are particularly effective.

They can be used in borders, for bedding or for background color. Groupings or drifts of several types often create outstanding color effects. With some planning it is possible to enjoy their beauty and color from January to May.

Bulbs can be effectively used in containers, too. They can provide spot color on the patio, in the entry area, near the driveway or in the home. Most varieties do equally well in the ground or in containers.

Crocus offer some of the finest early spring color. Dutch Crocus have large flowers and begin blooming in late February. Colors range from white, lavender, purple and yellow to striped white and lavender. They grow to only 4”-6” tall and are effective in borders, and groupings and they come back year after year.

The bright yellows, whites, and pinks of Daffodils are outstanding in the garden or on the hillside. When used among evergreens, in naturalized plantings or in combinations with crocus, they are truly outstanding. They are extremely easy to grow, requiring very little care after planting, and they multiply and bloom again each spring. As a bonus, deer and rodents don’t eat daffodil bulbs.

Fragrant Paperwhite Narcissus can be grown indoors or out in the garden. They come up very early and can be forced to bloom by Christmas. The large clusters of pure white flowers will scent the whole room.

Hyacinths add beauty and fragrance to the garden. Their use is more limited than the other bulbs mentioned because they are stiff and formal and do not naturalize as well. When used in containers, in formal plantings or for borders, they are very effective. This is an excellent bulb to use near the entry area, in the home or wherever foot traffic is heavy because of the intense fragrance they give off.

Tulips are among the most popular spring flowers of all time. They they come in an incredible variety of colors, heights, and flower shapes. Plant them in borders, in rock gardens, or in containers. Most tulips bloom well for only one or two years. So you will probably want to dig up the bulbs and put in new ones after two years. However, Darwin Hybrids and Emperor Tulips will come back looking great year after year. There is a variety to match every color in the spectrum.

There are a number of low growing early spring bulbs make great companions in the flower bed or under spring-flowering shrubs. The little blue flowers of Chionodoxa, or “Glory of the Snow”, and Muscari, or “Grape Hyacinths”, make a carpet of blues as they naturalize and spread. Iris reticulata has large, fragrant flowers on dwarf plants and Puschkinia has little tiny star-shaped flowers in palest blue clumped on one stem. Anemones and ranunculus can also be planted now for spring flowers.

Look forward to the beauty of spring and new beginnings with beautiful flowering bulbs.