Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Keep Those Daffodils Blooming!

It is not too late to plant a daffodil garden. In many parts of the country, daffodils can be planted through November and into December. Planting is still possible if the ground is not frozen and the soil is around 60 degrees F. If the ground is already frozen in your part of the country, it may be too late to plant bulbs, so this is a good time to plan a daffodil garden for this spring and for years to come. The right bulb choices will create a daffodil garden that will bloom from early spring into summer, allowing the daffodil lover to enjoy these perky flowers long after the traditional daffodil season has passed.

Most of us think of cheery yellow flowers when someone mentions daffodils. In fact, daffodils bloom in mixtures of white, pink, orange, red and yellow flowers. Each year new hybrids of daffodils are introduced by growers, increasing the varieties of daffodils available to the public. While yellow daffodils surrounded by snow is an image most gardeners cherish, and a fair amount of photographers capture, early spring yellow daffodils should be merely the first blooms for a daffodil garden. Selecting a mixture of early, mid, and late spring daffodils will create a daffodil garden which keeps on blooming. Daffodils are now available that bloom in summer, keeping a daffodil garden active well past the last snow of the season.

It is important to learn the language of daffodils to choose the type of bulbs that will produce the most beautiful garden for your landscape. The official botanical name for daffodils is Narcissus species. Commonly, these beautiful flowers are known as daffodils. In some areas they may also be referred to as " jonquils" but this is actually incorrect. Jonquils are a type of daffodil. Jonquils are probably what you see poking though the snow in early spring. While all jonquils are daffodils, not all daffodils are jonquils nor a hybrid. There are twenty-five species of daffodils and thirteen thousand different hybrids. These are broken down into divisions. So when choosing a bulb you are looking for a Narcissus Species, or a daffodil, that will have a division name such as Jonquilla narcissi. Each division is based on flower characteristics, such as petals and centers , known as " trumpets". The daffodil hybrids will be categorized by these different flower characteristics into the different divisions.

A type of daffodil falling within a certain division will have a more specific name such as
" Sweetness" or " Pipit". A familiarity with the divisions of daffodils will assist the gardener in choosing the best bulb for their garden plan. Each division describes a different looking daffodil. All daffodils do not look like the yellow flower we see emerging from the snow. There are at least twelve distinct types of daffodils and some experts argue a thirteenth division exists. The flowers look different and will create a different impact in a garden. For an extensive review of daffodil divisions see: "Cobb County Cooperative Extension ; Plant of the Month: Narcissus species; Common name : Daffodils, Jonquils " by Cornelius Tarver, Horticulture Program Assistant ( http://county.ces.uga.edu/Horticulture/Factsheets/PomNarcissus/DaffodilsJonquils.h).

Now we know daffodils can look different, but did you know they also bloom at different times? Some daffodils bloom in early spring, some in mid spring and others in late spring. A bulb catalog called "Brecks" now even sells summer blooming daffodils. The wide range of blooming times for daffodils makes it important to choose bulbs that bloom at different times to create a constantly flowering daffodil garden. Some daffodils should poke their heads up in the snow, and others should be ready to flower as school lets out for the year. Attention to the " bloom time" listed on your daffodil bulb description will allow you to plant bulbs that should sequentially bloom. Just remember, Mother Nature does not always follow the descriptions found on bulb websites or in catalogs. It is also important to keep in mind some bulbs need at least a year to acclimate to new growing conditions. Wait a year before you decide your bulbs are mid season bloomers, not early bloomers as described in the catalog. It may be a question of acclimation, not deceptive advertising.

Foliage is an important consideration when planning a daffodil garden. Conventional horticulture wisdom tells us to allow daffodil foliage to grow until it yellows. This is to allow the bulb to store energy for the next bloom cycle. I have to admit, I must have mutant daffodils because the foliage never seems to yellow until mid summer and sometimes fall. Most sources claim the foliage should yellow four weeks after the flower has bloomed. This has not been my experience.

If you are planting a daffodil garden that you intend to last beyond one year, remember that you need to allow the foliage to grow long after the flower has faded. You do not want to plant daffodils that only grow to twelve inches behind daffodils that grow to eighteen inches. The foliage will hide the new blooms. Plant bulbs of similar characteristics together. As tempting as it is to plant sequentially blooming bulbs in the same hole, remember that the foliage from early spring will still be growing come late spring and in my garden, even summer. Planning for foliage will allow the gardener to place their bulbs in locations that will allow each type of daffodil to shine and not be hidden by those daffodils that have already bloomed.

It is also important to correctly assess the sun exposure your garden will provide your daffodils. Most daffodils require full sun but will also bloom in part sun gardens. Daffodils will grow under large deciduous trees. These trees will provide a full sun planting ground before their leaves bloom. Early spring blooming daffodils can be planted under the branches of deciduous trees without a worry unless the tree trunk or limb creates permanent shade. Daffodils that bloom later, after the leaves have bloomed, are more problematic.

I have a Siberian Elm tree in my front yard that could die any decade now. In the mean time, the sun and the tree constantly confuse me as to whether my front yard in sunny, shady, or both. Sunshine drifts between the branches of old trees in a manner that confuses this gardener. At least I am not confused that some areas that are sunny in early spring are full shade come late spring. Take into account the shade caused by leaves when planting mid and late spring bulbs. While they will tolerate some shade, total shade will prevent your flowers from blooming.

The American Daffodil Society (ADS) is a good place to start if you are interested in learning more about daffodils. The ADS can also link you to daffodil growers who specialize in less popular bulbs. This is important when researching early blooming daffodils. Daffodils come in more varieties then your average gardener realizes. Keep those daffodils blooming. With a little research and careful bulb choices you can have a daffodil garden that blooms well past the last snow and into the warm weather of summer .

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