DAFFODILS AND NARCISSUS
When the snowdrops and aconites are in flower you know winter is coming to an end and spring is approaching, but when the daffodils come into bloom spring is well and truly established. It is so rewarding to see these heralds of spring that just about every garden has a wee bunch or drift, and Dundee City Council Parks department had them mass planted along highways, in housing estates and parks by the million. However those were planted at a time, many years ago, when creating attractive urban landscapes was not curtailed by financial cutbacks, and the benefits are with us today. There is still huge scope to enhance the floral landscape, more relevant now with new developments planned around the V & A.
A vibrant city of culture needs an environment to be proud of.
Dundee once boasted a very colourful City maintained by skilled gardeners. It would be a pity if that is only to remain a pleasant memory. However the road from Botanical Gardens to Tesco is still very eye catching when the drifts of daffodils come into full bloom, though my favourites are always the drifts of Narcissus February Gold planted along the Lochee Road. They are always the first in flower in mid March alongside the crocus flowers.
Daffodils and narcissi come in thousands of different varieties. Some have large flowers such as the King Alfred and Golden Harvest. Mount Hood has a large flowered white trumpet and a brilliant scent. February Gold has smaller flowers but when mass planted create a fantastic splash of colour.
My favourite scented narcissi are the Cheerfulness varieties as well as the small flowered Jonquils.
Some have beautiful colour combinations like Ice Follies, a white with a lemon yellow cup and Pink Pride with a pink cup. Lemon yellow flowers are very attractive with St. Patrick’s Day a winner.
Plant some large trumpet daffodils beside a drift of the early Fosteriana tulip Red Emperor as they frequently flower at the same time.
They can be planted in deciduous shrub borders, in amongst herbaceous borders especially next to some blue flowered Pulmonaria and even under apple trees or other fruit trees. Many people plant them in lawns, which is fine, but resist the temptation to tidy up the old leaves too soon as it is these leaves that help to build up a large strong bulb for flowering the following year.
Every autumn I can always find a spot for a few more daffodils, or I buy in for planting in tubs or forcing in pots to give early flowers for the house. Once these are finished they can be kept growing to build up a good bulb then dried off after a couple of months. I always reuse these somewhere around the garden.
If you are starting at the beginning, then after selecting those you wish to try, plant them in a random drift about six inches to a foot apart. In time the drift will thicken up as the bulbs increase in size. Encourage growth of the foliage after flowering by giving a dressing of fertiliser and leave them for a minimum of six weeks or longer before removing the leaves.
Take care when handling the bulbs and cut stems and foliage as most daffodils and narcissi sap contains many types of alkaloid poisons. It is not lethal but some people can develop a rash.
Daffodils are not troubled too much by pests and diseases, though narcissus fly can lay eggs which hatch out into maggots which eat the centre out of the bulb. Infected bulbs still produce a few leaves but very few flowers. When removing the old leaves disturb the soil so that any hole left by the old leaves is filled up to deny the fly easy access to the bulbs where it can lay its eggs.
Drumstick primula (Primula denticulata) flowers in spring and early summer with white, lilac, and pink flowers. Primulas like a rich moisture retaining soil that can be quite damp but still well drained. They grow about a foot tall and prefer dappled shade conditions.
Propagate by division after flowering as well as by seed or root cuttings taken in winter. Buy in seed as home saved seed may not come true to type.
Painting of the Month
Summer Seas is an acrylic semi abstract based on a coastal photo from the Isle of Skye. The focus was on creating pleasing shapes with colour in harmony and a very loose style where abstract qualities were more important than an identifiable location.
This painting will be shown in my exhibition in Old Ladyloan School in Arbroath at the end of May as one of the artists participating in the Angus Open Studios event.