Monday, 25 February 2013

Mainly narcissus and daffodils

Remember the warm spell at the beginning of January!


I am lumping them together, they are all narcissus, daffodils are the ones with the large trumpets. I love them all, but perhaps daffodils most. So popular, that some people suggest they may be over-planted. I once read that a particular variety, I forget which one, made up the greatest total mass of vegetatively propagated identical genetic tissue in the world! This is probably wrong!
Apart from their bold beauty, I adore narcissus because they hold their flowers a long time, there is a huge range of varieties and species, and by planting a sequence of early and late varieties you can enjoy flowers for up to five months.

Narcissus are  wonderful for naturalising. Planted in the ground they become stronger each passing year and thrive in a huge range of soils. A man on the television recently said they are intolerant of poor drainage. Had he never seen the beautiful drifts of daffodils in Farndale, North Yorkshire.There, they are frequently flooded, and grow right to the water’s edge. I often see snowdrops in wet conditions too, never hyacinths and tulips.

A little worse for wear these daffodils have been under water for a month.

Follow my narcissus this year
I am intending, in this blog, to follow my own daffodils as they progress throughout this coming year. Other than those in tubs they are all permanently planted. 

In beds and borders
The snowdrops were there first!

Provided you don’t dig, narcissus can stay in place for years. It is best to plant new bulbs before the end of September - unlike tulips when if necessary, you can wait until Christmas! I try a few new varieties each year.There is an enticing range and they are not all yellow! I plant mine in discrete clumps where they have room to die down in sunshine before being overgrown by summer vegetation. Be aware that the changing landscape of a garden such as the growth of shrubs and trees may eventually heavily shade bulbs. When this happens either prune the bushes or transplant the bulbs. Do not be afraid to move them ‘in the green’, otherwise you might forget their location! Shaded bulbs ‘go to grass’ and will not flower. But read on, do not throw them away! 
In tubs and planters outside.
I make up a few new tubs each year, others I refurbish and some I do not disturb at all. Eventually with the ravages of time, animals and neglect they subside and any surviving bulbs can be convalesced to permanent planting in the ground.
Because it is sandy, I can use my soil instead of compost in tubs. I prepare soil with slow-release fertilizer, dolomitic limestone (it’s my choice of lime) and very judicious use of NPK compound fertilizer. More cautious gardeners might use John Innes No.2 compost instead. My new bulbs often come from Parkers Wholesale and all my Spring bulbs are planted by the end of September. They remain in my ‘nursery’ alongside my greenhouse, until they burst into growth and are ready to display. 
Established tubs are given a top dressing of my Yara Mila compound fertilizer in August and January. Growmore is a suitable alternative. (I do not use any fertilizers on my bulbs in the ground).
An important cultural note. In the winter it is easy to become complacent with watering. As bulbs become leafy, the soil is quickly dehydrated and they then need plenty of water. I have frequently seen bulbs in containers damaged by severe water loss in an unexpected spell of dry windy weather.
In grass

Narcissus (together with crocus and snowdrops) are one of the few bulbs with the constitution to naturalise in grass. It is traditional practice to fling bulbs over the ground to mark a random pattern for planting. I recommend this if there are swathes of grass you do not intend to mow until the bulbs have died down. In my own case I want to regularly mow between them and like in my borders I plant  my bulbs in random clumps. As to actual planting I use my border spade to lever-up the grass, shove in a handful of bulbs and tread down. Fancy bulb planters are of no use to me.
I can easily mow around this clump - assuming no snow!
Don't do this

In the wild
My house was originally two farm cottages  and is more than two hundred years old. I imagine a gardener collecting native lenten lilies ‘in the wild’ and planting them in the hedgerow across the farm track, now a busy road! They are still there and set seed. With a little encouragement from me they have made very strong clumps and some have migrated across the road to my own grass verge.
In my two cemetery gardens there are many thousands of daffodils, snowdrops and bluebells. Planted on graves going back a hundred and fifty years, the narcissus had all ‘gone to grass’ and did not flower. This was a result of the heavy cover of weed. Nettles, brambles, ground elder, couch, horse radish with roots thicker than you arm, you name a weed, it was there. It took a couple of years of my Roundup sprays to eliminate the weed. It took two to three years of sunshine for the bulbs to return to flower but they all did. With no further attention other than keeping them weed free, they continue to flourish at Bolton Percy after nearly 40 years. What happened at Bolton Percy ‘by accident‘ was repeated at  Worsbrough fifteen years ago, this time with intent. It was a delight to watch the same succession back to flower. 
Anticipated pleasures












You will recognize a superior camera skill to my own.

Follow my daffodils later in the season

23 comments:

  1. I love daffodils. At present, I'm delighting in the little tete-a-tete. The buds of taller ones are still closed. Snowdrops don't like it here and I've never been tempted by bluebells because although I like them (a lot)they tend to have a lot of leaf which would take up too much space in a small garden. (I like green - but bluebell leaves are a bit dull, don't you think?)

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    1. Thanks for this, but have I dropped a clanger? Is the top picture Tete-a-tete or February Gold? I think I would have to see them side by side! My Tete-a-tete at Seaton Ross is nowhere near flowering but its been much colder here than Barnsley. (It's usually the opposite!). Perhaps someone would be kind enough to tell me!
      I agree about bluebell leaves they are quite a nuisance- (am restraining my language!)

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    2. They look a little tall for tete a tete - our tete a tete are only about 15cm/6" tall whereas February Gold are about twice as tall.

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    3. Phew! Thanks for the reassurance! I think Tete-a-tete is one of the very best varieties!

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  2. I love the miniature varieties best for the garden as the foliage is less dominant when the flowering is over and also they stand up to the weather quite well.

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    1. Yes, I have a lot of the smaller ones. In fact I went through a very snooty period when We moved into Boundary Cottage and I removed some of the big ones. But there is a story there that I will tell in my next daffodil post!

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  3. The miniature varieties are best for me too - for two reasons: they don't dominate my small garden, and they are less prone to wind damage. Like Esther, I have plenty of Tete a Tete.

    That last pic of yours is Clifford's Tower in York, isn't it? I seem to remember running up it once when my kids were small! The steps would kill me these days though..

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    1. Me too. I would not be too keen on those steps!

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    2. It is indeed Clifford's Tower Mark. I took it last year to illustrate a book about the city walls of York. The problem with the York daffs is...if the kids don't destroy the early shoots by sledging down the tower mound, they pinch all the flowers!

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  4. I don't think it is possible to overplant daffodils. The white ones are my favorites.

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    1. Yes I think there is fantastic the range of colour combinations available now. I remember years ago seeing very expensive newly raised varieties in the specialist flower shows, they are two a penny now! Some varieties have lovely soft shades of yellow and the seasonal spread is greatly extended.

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  5. I have struggled for years to see the beauty in yellow narcissus/daffs. I have white ones I grow in containers and love to see them swaying in the wind. I have however, succumb this year (last autumn) and planted a few different miniature yellows Tete a Tete, Jetfire and Rip Van Winkle - I'm converted since spreading my wings across the WWW!
    Lovely pictures - particularly the last one!

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    1. I should add that I agree with your comments re flooding - on the bank of the river that runs past my house - there are swathes of Daffs and Snowdrops regularly under water and the return beautifully each year!

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    2. Thanks for the confirmation Angie. The TV guru went further and suggested planting on a base of grit!
      Nothing is designed better as a sump for water!

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  6. I really like the tete a tetes as they can cope with the stormy weather we always get around the spring equinox plus there are less leaves to die down naturally after flowering. I do have some of the very fancy varieties though as a photographer I really don't like them as they are just too blousey and elaborate and a simple trumpet daffodil always makes for a good photograph.

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  7. The photos are lovely. So nice to see blooms already peaking out.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

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    1. Our weather round here is staying very cold. It is proving to be a longer winter than expected. The narcissus seem to have stopped in their tracks!

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  8. I absolutely love daffodils of all varieties and spotted some out along my street this weekend! None of mine are out yet though. Funny because I always thought they flowered earlier than this, but I think I am just being rather impatient this year!!

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  9. It's proving to be a late season and a long winter, Anna

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  10. Thank you for your story, lovely. First picture is according to me February Gold, other years already in flower not yet this year. Tete-a-tete is smaller. I am fond of all kinds of Narcissus and have even a long row along the fence on the roadside and yes we also have a very wet garden, sometimes waterlogged spots, but no problem for the daffodils. Like you most years I buy one or two new varieties. The last picture of the tower with the daffodils is so beautiful. Looking forward to your pictures when Narcissus are going to flower.

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    1. Thanks Janneke. Yes the last five pictures are all by my friend and neighbour Harry.
      You can also see his beautiful pictures of animals on Sue Doherty's blog Chicken Whisperer whose link is in my sidebar. Look at his birdwatch pictures and also Sue's Christmas post- brilliant

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  11. I love daffodils, I think they must be one of the first flowers that you know the name of as a child, as they're so familiar to even non-gardeners. I don't think the traditional yellow ones can be beaten.

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    1. On balance I agree with you Jo, but I really love them all, even the doubles.

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