Spring would not be the same without the cheerful nodding heads of daffodils. They are easy to grow and require little maintenance.
They come in many different shapes and colours that, with careful selection of varieties, can flower for four months of the year. The scientific name of the daffodil derives from the Greek god Narcissus, who looked into a pool, saw his reflection and fell in love with himself. Because there are so many types of daffodils they have been divided into 12 divisions, each with distinct characteristics based on the shape and number of flowers on each stem. Flower shapes include trumpet, large and small cupped, double, more than one flower per stem and miniature daffodils which have become very popular. Some varieties lend themselves to naturalising, others are excellent in pot and containers on the patio or planted in a border.
The large trumpet variety ‘Mount Hood’, with white petals and ivory trumpet, produces big flowers that makes a bold display in a border. ‘Jack Snipe’, has long pointed petals and neat trumpets in dark yellow, grows only 9 inches tall, making it ideal for pots, window-boxes and hanging baskets. ‘Minnow’ produces up to five flowers per stalk, has rounded creamy yellow petals and a lemon trumpet, is very fragrant and tender making it suitable for growing indoors. ‘Rip van Wickle’ is a small species suitable for rock gardens.
Daffodils will grow almost anywhere, although they do prefer well drained soils in sun or partial shade. Bulbs should be planted from August to November, the earlier the better, at a depth three times the height of the bulb in beds, borders and large containers. In lawns they are best planted slightly deeper, at a depth of 6 inches. If your soil is heavy and poorly drained, mix a handful of grit into the base of the planting hole. This will increase drainage, thus reducing the risk of fungal diseases. To create a really good display in a container, plant bulbs at different depths to increase the number of bulbs that can fit into the space. Daffodils look good planted in borders or in naturalised drifts at the base of deciduous trees. They look at their best when planted in drifts of eight or more bulbs, which appears more natural. They also work well in containers with most spring flowering plants. Try them with tulips, crocuses and polyanthus. When the flower heads have faded, it is best to remove them.
This will prevent the plant diverting all its energy from the bulb which is necessary to build up the bulb for next year’s flowers. This job takes some time if you have a large number of bulbs, but you will be rewarded with better flowers next year.
After the flowers have faded, the remaining leaves can look unsightly. Do not remove the leaves for at least six weeks after flowering. Apply a high potash fertiliser after flowering to increase the size of the bulb for next year. Divide overcrowded clumps in late summer and plant elsewhere in the garden. If your daffodils did not flower, the most likely cause is that the bulbs were not planted deep enough. The bulb will be prone to drying out in spring and cannot obtain sufficient nutrients to provide a good display of flowers.
Hornbeam (Carpinus) Hedge
This week I have a question about planting a hornbeam hedge. Hornbeam is a hardy native plant that makes a great hedge. Green leaves emerge in spring that turn yellow in the autumn and then turn russet over the winter before falling off. It is suitable for heavy wet soils and is frost hardy. Plant at 30cm. apart, using small plants will lead to faster growth and better survival rates. It is similar to beech and can be used to replace escallonia or griselinia hedging that were killed by frost.
Garden Club Notices
Limerick Garden Plants Group next meeting takes place on Thursday 27th March at 8pm in the South Court Hotel, Limerick. Helen Dillon will give a new illustrated talk ‘Spring into Summer’. Admission €6 members, €12 non-members, includes entry and refreshment.