Remember the warm spell at the beginning of January?
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, intermediate 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. How wrong can you be. 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 see snowdrops in wet conditions too but 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!
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, in dry windy weather, 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 drying conditions.
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 only 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 just as I do in my borders 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.
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.
You will recognize a superior camera skill to my own.
Follow my daffodils later in the season