Cult Flowers: Narcissus

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‘Cult flowers’ appeal to us so persistently that we respond to them in ways that don’t quite make sense.  Their grip on our imagination, our affections, and yes, our resources defy reason.

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Is it possible to fall in love with a genus of plant?  Absolutely. 

Across horticultural history you’ll find characters who left home continents behind to collect them.  You’ll find those who quit their day jobs to breed and raise them full-time.  And, sadly, you’ll find those who ignored their spouse’s better judgement to collect them…. year after beautiful golden year.

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To gain a deeper understanding of the many ways in which daffodils have been ‘cult flowers’ for the last few centuries, treat yourself to Noel Kingsbury’s beautiful and very useful book Daffodil: The Remarkable Story of the World’s Most Popular Spring Flower.  

Kingsbury, a beloved British landscape designer and horticulturalist, takes us on a journey of all things daffodil that actually begins in pharonic Egypt.  Yes, the Egyptian royals were talented gardeners, collecting many of the same plants that we do today:  Narcissus, Iris, lilies, Alliums, and many sorts of fruit bearing trees.  Kingsbury tells us that Ramses II’s  mummy was found with a Narcissus bulb covering each eye.  Now that goes a bit beyond what even we moderns do to enjoy our spring daffodils!

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Because Narcissi return so reliably as winter transforms into spring, they’ve earned a mythic association with time and eternal life. They’re often planted around cemeteries in areas where they perennialize, where they return year after year in ever greater numbers.

Extremely poisonous, Narcissi have a narcotic quality when used medicinally.  They were used, in measured, carefully prepared potions, to sedate and treat pain.   Never mistake a Narcissus bulb for an onion; this has been done from time to time with disastrous results.

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I appreciate the poisonous qualities of daffodils and plant them with confidence where deer shred non-lethal flowers and shrubs.  And I plant a ring of daffodil bulbs around newly planted shrubs and trees, to protect their roots from voles.  In fact, we’ve learned to stop vole traffic to parts of our garden by planting rows of daffodils across their former paths.  Unlike chemicals that must be reapplied every few weeks, the daffodil solution proves permanent, growing denser and more effective with each passing year.

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Kingsbury gave me a good, basic understanding of the various species daffodils known and loved since at least the dark ages.  He quotes medieval manuscripts which describe the daffodils growing in certain royal or monastic gardens, often with small paintings to illustrate the flowers.  He then builds on that knowledge of the species, their characteristics and countries of origin to help explain the work of modern day daffodil breeders.

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There were already nearly 80 distinct types of daffodils recorded in British horticultural records by 1607, when British colonization began here in Virginia.  And yes, those early settlers brought their daffodil bubs with them, sometimes sewn into the clothing they wore on the voyage.

Daffodils were planted early on all over coastal Virginia, and they thrived here.  As European/American settlers moved ever further west, they took their daffodils with them.  So much so, that Kingsbury describes how Native Americans carried daffodil bulbs with them along the Trail of Tears.

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By the early 19th Century, there were 150 distinct types of daffodils cultivated in England.  A Yorkshire vicar dissected all 150 varieties to develop a classification system and discovered that many of the flowers were sterile.  This was in the early days of enthusiasts and scientists understanding the principles of hybridization, and at this time all of the known daffodils were species or natural hybrids.

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Daffodils had perennialized across Virginia’s Gloucester Peninsula when Brent Heath’s grandfather, Charles, visited in search of the farmer who grew a terrific cantaloupe.  It seems his grandfather wanted to arrange personal deliveries of the especially tasty melon.  He found the farmer, and  he also found fields of daffodils, ripe for the picking.  Residents in those days picked the wild daffodils to sell as cut flowers in cities up and down the coast.  As late as the 1980s, daffodils were sold on street corners in Richmond by vendors who purchased daffodils from Gloucester, as soon as they bloomed each spring.

Charles Heath ended up buying the family’s current properties in Gloucester where Brent and Becky’s Bulbs still does business today, and went into the cut flower business.

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That is how the Heath family first entered the wonderful world of growing daffodils.  Charles Heath had connections in Europe, and soon introduced many new European varieties of daffodils to his Gloucester fields, where the flowers were picked, bundled, shipped and sold each spring to ports along our East Coast.  His son, George, continued in the business and had one of the largest collections of Narcissi varieties in North America when his son, Brent was born.

Brent tells stories of how he was instructed at a very early age in how to properly pick and bundle daffodils for sale, and he earned his pocket money by picking daffodils each spring; and later by raising bulbs from small divisions on the family farm, and selling his bulbs.

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Eventually, Brent Heath decided that he wanted to also develop new hybrids.  He was mentored by skilled breeders, and had the knowledge, patience, and attention to detail to develop and bring to market many beautiful new hybrids.  The Heaths are known and respected internationally for their tremendous selection of daffodil and other bulbs, and for the health and vigor of the bulbs they sell.

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Narcissus ‘Katie Heath’ named for Brent Heath’s mother.

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Some might wonder why certain people passionately devote their lives to breeding new varieties of a single type of plant.  Once there are already many thousands of named and recognized varieties, why would the world want more?

Consider that it may take a Narcissus seedling up to five years to flower, and once selected, it may take another 10 to build up a large enough stock of bulbs to market commercially.

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Mary Gay Lirette, a Heath hybrid.

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Only someone passionately devoted to their art would persist so long in the pursuit of offering a new variety of daffodil to the world.  But there are many breeders willing to make the commitment, and who have the resources to generate new hybrids.

On the one hand, there is a desire to perfect the plant, generating stronger stems, more disease resistance, hardiness, and a willingness to grow well and perennialize under a wide variety of growing conditions.  On the other hand, there is the desire to produce certain combinations of form and color.

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Miniature daffodils appeal to many hobbyists with limited growing space, and many breeders are working now to develop ever more combinations of flower form and color on a miniature plant.

Kingsbury opens his chapter on daffodil breeders with a photo of a delicate white miniature daffodil, with a tiny green cup and recurved petals, which stole my heart.  I skimmed ahead for its name so I might order it.

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Sadly, it was an ‘unnamed seedling’ produced by California breeder Harold Koopowitz, and not yet on the market when Daffodil was published in 2013.  The ability to create such variety within the relatively limited scope of the Narcissi characteristics defines both the breeders’ passion and the collector’s lust for new plants.

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Most of us think about the classic yellow trumpet daffodil as our ideal.  It is sunshiny yellow, has six nearly identical petals surrounding a long, wide trumpet, or corona, of the same color.  It stand about 16″ tall on a soft hollow green stem, and has narrow green leaves surrounding it.

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Pure white N. ‘Thalia,’ two flowers per stem, blooms beside double N. ‘Cheerfullness’

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Now, imagine this same flower in white, and you have N. ‘Mount Hood.’ Daffodils may have white, yellow, yellow-green, golden, peach, or pink petals.  The corona may be long or very short, wide or narrow, frilly, doubled, or split into sections, and splayed back against the petals. It may appear in white, green, orange, gold, red, peach, yellow or pink.  Some doubles look like Camellias, their coronas are so full.

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N. ‘Obdam, a sport of N. ‘Ice Follies’

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The petals themselves may be wide or narrow, rounded or pointed, twisted, long or very, very short.  Flowers may be scented or not, one to a stem or many, and the stems themselves may be anywhere from 4″ to 24″ tall.

Finding the variations and interesting new combinations makes the work endlessly fascinating.

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N. ‘Erlicheer’, 1934

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Daffodils bloom over a long season here in coastal Virginia, some as early as late December and some as late as May.  They arise from the wintery earth to grow and bloom when little else is in season, and then once the leaves have re-fueled the bulbs for another year, they die back and disappear.  If naturalized in grass, the grass can be mown again a little more than a month after the flowers finish.

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Many of us enjoy growing daffodils around shrubs and under trees.  They make their spectacular spring show, and then are gone as the trees begin to fill in the canopy of their summer leaves.  We don’t have them around for long enough to grow tired of them.  In our garden, by mid-spring, a new variety or two opens each week.  As the first ones fade, the late daffodils are just blooming.

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N. ‘Delnashaugh’

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I’ve ordered lots of 250 or 300 bulbs of the same daffodil variety from the Heaths each summer for the last several years.  Gardening friends and I divide up the order, each of us growing some number of the same variety in our own yards.  This is a great way to purchase enough bulbs to make a good patch of a variety, without breaking the budget.  Generally, the larger the quantity you can order, the better the price per bulb.

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This year, I’m undecided which variety to order.  I’ve asked some friends for their opinions on my short list of ten varieties, heavily weighted towards the Heath’s own introductions.  I happen to like the more unusual flower forms, like the doubles and split coronas.

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N. ‘Madison’

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I also like those with white petals and color in their corona.  I believe we are leaning towards a beauty called N. ‘Gentle Giant,’ which has white petals and a frilly, bright orange cup.  Whichever one we choose, we will be happy growing it.

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Daffodils are happiness inducing flowers, greeting us each spring with cheerful faces and easy demeanor.

No wonder they have remained ‘cult flowers’ over many centuries of human history, growing perhaps more popular with each passing year.  A gardener knows that the bulbs planted this fall will bloom again and again, long past the time when another gardener has taken over the work.

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Woodland Gnome 2019

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Where Horticulture Meets History

Narcissus ‘Telamonius Plenus’

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Every plant has a story.  And these stories are as laced with adventure, intrigue, (plant) lust and great friendships as any you might hear.

Take the little Daffodil, Narcissus ‘Telamonius Plenus.’   This is the oldest known ‘double’ daffodil, and records tell us that it’s first spring to flower was in 1620, in the London garden of immigrant Vincent Sion, who was Flemish.  His friends admired this little flower so much, that eventually he shared some of his bulbs with friends.  Several other names attach to this little flower, derived from these first gardeners to enjoy it.

You may hear it called ‘Van Scion’ for the original grower, or perhaps ‘Wilmer’s Great Double Daffodil’ after George Wilmer, one of Scion’s friends who received those original bulbs.

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Double Van Scion, or Guernsey Double Daffodil

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We found the very doubled Narcissus in the photo above growing in our garden during our first spring here in 2010.  I’d never noticed a Daffodil quite like this before.  But in reading about N. ‘Telemonius Plenus’, or N. ‘Van Scion,’ I’ve learned that these two forms of the original double Daffodil seem to be named interchangeably and share a long history together.  So this one also dates back to 17th Century England, and likely made it to Virginia in the baggage of early colonists.

This clump proves very hardy and prolific.    We have a few clumps of these growing in the front garden now, and I want to perhaps divide these in a few weeks to spread them around a bit more.

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This variety is known for the tinges of green on its petals.

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Once upon a time, one’s garden reflected one’s friendships.  Plant lust remains one of the passions good friends share, just as it was in the early days of exploration and hybridization.

We hear of transcontinental friendships where American colonists collected seeds and cuttings to ship back to their botanical buddies in England, Holland and France.  European gardeners had unlimited faith in the ‘new world’ to proffer new fruits and nuts, flowers, ferns and useful trees.

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And the most promising of these plants took root in the great gardens of Europe first, shared among friends, before finally entering the nursery trade.

Likewise, American colonists ordered seeds and favorite plants from their contacts back in Europe to plant in their newly cleared gardens.  Many of the plants we grow here now came to us from Asia, by way of Europe, sometime over the last 400 years.

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Another double Narcissus we grow, which probably came to us from Brent and Becky Heath’s bulb shop.

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Even today, friendships can be cemented through favorite plants shared with one another.  We give of our gardens, we give of ourselves.  Like so many other things we love, plants outlive us.  Their propagation proves part of our legacy.

How many of us nurture a shrub grown from a cutting given to us by a loved one?  How many of us divided perennials from our parents’ garden to start our own?  How many of us grow plants today that were given to us by loved ones?

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Plants given in love are nurtured, protected, propagated and eventually passed on to others.  This is how we keep the old varieties going strong, even as newly hybridized or collected plants are introduced for our consideration each and every year.

Woodland Gnome 2017

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This lovely Daffodil is blooming all over our garden this week. A gift from our neighbor, who dug and divided his Daffodils in the fall of 2015, it blooms this year for us.  He gave me a whole bucked of unknown Daffodil bulbs, and I happily planted them everywhere!

 

Winter’s Encore

April 5, 2016 ferns 001

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Lest we forget that coastal Virginia has not yet become tropical, winter returned for an encore early this morning.  Wind whipped out of the north most of the day.  At least we didn’t see snow when the sun rose this morning.

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Balmy days in March lulled us into believing the promises of springtime.  Dogwoods opened as though it were mid-April already.  Wisteria blankets the trees along country roads, and Azalea shrubs have burst into bright Easter egg colors.

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Ferns unfold their delicate fronds and tender perennials have tentatively opened their first new leaves of the season.  Our roses have produced their first flush of tiny flower buds.

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We were thrilled to discover our figs survived this winter past, new leaves and tiny fruits bursting from last year’s wood.  But that may all change over night.

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What is this sadistic weather roller coaster that has hi-jacked the jet stream?  Why the Arctic blast after weeks of sunny warmth?

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We started early this morning bringing plants back in to the relative warmth of our garage.  I went out, before the coffee was made, to investigate what had sent our wind chimes beneath the deck madly ringing.  It was a chair blown over, hitting them on the way down.  Brrr!

The wind chill had returned us to February, and we began bringing in those pots and baskets still sheltering under the deck.  Despite the blazing sun, today brought relentless wind and cold .

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It was after five when we finally covered those tender pots we couldn’t move, stretched large bags over a few tender shrubs, and agreed we had made our best efforts.

Will it freeze here tonight?  We’ll know by morning.  Then we’ll enjoy a few more days of warmth before the freezing cold returns this weekend.

Our frost free date here in Zone 7 remains April 15.  While it may be unusual to have wintery cold so deep into April, we have to remember it can happen.  April snow  rarely falls in our area, but flurries greeted neighbors to our north and west this morning.

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It may look like spring in our garden, but winter is making an encore this week.  We trust that those leaves and flowers unfolding now will survive her frosty touch.

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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Wednesday Vignette

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“For you little gardener and lover of trees, I have only a small gift. Here is set G for Galadriel, but it may stand for garden in your tongue. In this box there is earth from my orchard, and such blessing as Galadriel has still to bestow is upon it. It will not keep you on your road, nor defend you against any peril; but if you keep it and see your home again at last, then perhaps it may reward you. Though you should find all barren and laid waste, there will be few gardens in Middle-earth that will bloom like your garden, if you sprinkle this earth there.

Then you may remember Galadriel, and catch a glimpse far off of Lórien, that you have seen only in our winter. For our spring and our summer are gone by, and they will never be seen on earth again save in memory.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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Daffodil

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“Beauty is a form of Genius-

-is higher, indeed, than Genius, as it needs no explanation.

It is one of the great facts of the world, like sunlight,

or springtime, or the reflection in the dark waters

of that silver shell we call the moon.

It cannot be questioned. It has divine right of sovereignty.”

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Oscar Wilde

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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In A Vase On Monday: Harvest of Daffodils

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Astrological spring and meteorological spring finally agree with the reality in our garden.  We’ve touched every milestone along the way, avoided a late snow last night, and can breathe deeply again with confidence that spring has indeed arrived.

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We will celebrate the New Year, Nowruz, which comes on the spring Equinox, with friends this afternoon.  And we’ll be taking them this vase filled with Daffodils, ivy, and a blooming branch from our apple tree.

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Our earliest Daffodils have begun to fade even as the mid-season bloomers open.  We have perhaps seven or eight different types blooming now, with a few late bloomers not yet ready to appear.

It is a long season of beautiful Daffodils in our garden, and in our community.  Many of us have caught the Daffodil Fever from our friends across the York River in Gloucester.  Their Daffodil Festival comes the first weekend of April.  But Daffodils have already  been blooming now for several weeks in coastal Virginia.

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Daffodils not only bring early color and movement to the garden.  They also offer protection from moles and voles for the roots of other plants.  Now, I plant rings of Daffodil bulbs  around newly planted shrubs to protect them.  Every part of a Daffodil plant is poisonous, including its roots.  Those roots grow into a secure network of protection for several inches in every direction from the bulb.

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Daffodils return each spring, increasing into larger clumps with more flowers each passing year.  If allowed to set seed, they will spread far across the garden.

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Most Daffodils will outlive the gardener who planted them with minimal care.  We enjoy a large wave of golden Daffodils left by the first gardeners of our property more than 25 years ago.  And every fall we plant more, expanding their reach to every portion of our garden.

Appreciation, as always, to Cathy, at Rambling in the Garden, for sponsoring our Monday vases.   Please visit her post today to see a simply stunning vase she has made herself, filled with beautiful spring flowers.  If your heart needs more bright sunny Daffodils and species tulips, you will enjoy gazing at her photos today.  You’ll also find of links to many creative vases arranged by other gardeners around the world.

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Not a vase, but a container planted up last fall with Daffodils, Hellebores, moss, and other spring bulbs has come into its own this week.

Not a vase, but a container planted up last fall with Daffodils, Hellebores, moss, Violas and other spring bulbs has come into its own this week.

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Woodland Gnome 2016

Plant Now For Spring Living Flower Arrangements

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Who wants to look at empty pots for the next four months?  I am as interested in planting attractive pots for the winter season as I am interested in replanting those pots for summer.  And each fall, I keep an eye and and ear open for new ideas.

Brent Heath offered a workshop last month at his Bulb Shop in Gloucester that I sorely wanted to attend.  He even offered to bring his workshop across the river if I could pull a group together in our community.  And how I wish my time and energy had stretched far enough to invite him!

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Miniature daffodils grow to only 6"-8" tall and work well in spring pots. Plant the entire bulb and foliage out into a permanent spot in the garden when switching out plantings for summer.

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Brent, a master horticulturalist, teaches the finer points of loading containers with bulbs.  Now even though he and his wife Becky are known internationally for their prodigious offering of Daffodils; they sell hundreds of different bulbs and perennials.  Brent’s workshop teaches how to layer several different species of bulbs into a single pot to create a “Living Flower Arrangement” which changes over time as different bulbs appear, bloom, and fade.

I wanted to attend Brent’s workshop to learn a new trick or two.  I’ve used various bulbs in containers for many years now, but there is always a better way, when one is open to learn from someone more experienced.  But the stars haven’t aligned this season, and so I’ve been experimenting on my own with the bulbs we’ve been collecting.

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Violas with white Dianthus, and Muscari. Miniature Daffodils bloomed later in the season.

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The idea is elegantly simple:  since one plants bulbs at different depths depending on the size of the bulb, and since new growth from most bulbs is very narrow before it reaches the light,  one can plant one ‘layer’ of bulbs on top of another, allowing the emerging stems to sort out the spacing as they grow upwards towards the light.  In fact, three or four ‘layers’ of different types of bulbs may be planted into a single large pot.   This very crowded planting works for a single season, but must be unpacked by early summer.  The bulbs may be transplanted ‘in the green’ into garden beds, to allow the leaves to fully recharge the bulb for the next season of flowers.

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 Containers for sale at the Heath's Bulb Shop last April

Containers on display at the Heath’s Bulb Shop last April

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I modify this idea to include annuals, perennials, woodies and moss so the planting has immediate interest while we wait for the bulbs to emerge in the spring.

Begin with a clean pot.  I use coffee filters or a paper towel over the drainage holes to hold the soil while the roots are growing.  The filters will soon decompose.  Choose a good quality, light, commercial potting soil with nutrition already mixed in.  The annuals and perennials are heavy feeders, and the bulbs will perform better in rich soil.  Many of the ‘organic’ potting soils now come pre-loaded with worm castings!

Now one must  ‘do the math.’  Having chosen 2-5 species of bulbs, depending on the size and depth of the pot, first study the proper planting depth of each.  If you are using Daffodils, for instance, which are planted at a depth of 6″, then fill the pot with soil to within about 7″ of the rim.    Set the first ‘layer’ of Daffodil bulbs on the soil by pushing the root end slightly into the soil so that the tip points upwards.  Space these Daffodils 3″-4″ apart from one another and at least an inch or two inwards from the sides of the pot.  Carefully fill in around these bulbs with more potting soil so they are barely covered, and firm the soil with your palm.

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Violas jnder a potted redbud tree grow here with Heuchera and daffodils.

Violas under a potted Redbud tree grow here with Heuchera and Daffodils early last spring.

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Choose your next bulb, adding just enough soil so it is planted at its correct depth, and arrange these bulbs by lightly pushing them into the soil.  Try to avoid setting a new bulb directly over top of a deeper one.  Lightly top with soil to hold this layer in place, and add an additional layer or two of bulbs.  I like to select a few bulbs, like Crocus, Muscari, or Galanthus nivalis, which will emerge in late winter.  These will often be the ones planted most shallow.

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Miniature Iris and Muscari are planted in a grid beneath the moss. Violas fit between the bulbs. I've tucked in rooted cutting of Creeping Jenny for color. These turn bright red in a harsh winter.

Miniature Iris and Muscari are planted in a grid beneath the moss. Violas fit between the bulbs. I’ve tucked in rooted cutting of Creeping Jenny for color. These turn bright red in a harsh winter.

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If your living flower arrangement will contain only bulbs, then simply top off the soil with a layer of living moss, water in, place the pot, and wait.  You can certainly add a few branches, pods, stones or cones to the pot to catch the eye while you wait for spring.

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Violas with creeping jenny and a hardy Sedum.

Violas with Creeping Jenny and a hardy Sedum ‘Angelina’ last April.

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But I want a living flower arrangement which goes to work right away.  I always add some annuals or perennials to the mix, which complicates the bulb planting a bit, as you don’t want bulbs directly under the huge root ball of a perennial or shrub.   I tend to place  a shrub or perennial in the pot first, then plant the bulbs around it.  This is a good use for those clearance shrubs with tiny root balls so easy to find in late October or November.  Or, for the many evergreen shrubs showing up now in tiny quart or 1 gallon pots.

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Many vines and some perennials root easily from cuttings.  Simply tuck bits of Creeping Jenny, hardy Sedum, or divisions of Ivy or Ajuga into the soil of your finished pot.  These will grow in place.  Consider sprinkling seeds for perennials like Columbine, which like to overwinter out of doors.  They will begin to sprout next spring as the bulbs emerge.

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Creeping Jenny last March

Creeping Jenny last March

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You might complete your design with some winter annuals.  You can pot up the deeper layers of bulbs, and then plant a few Violas, Pansies or snaps in the top three inches of the pot.  Layer in your Crocus and Muscari bulbs around them.

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I still finish the pot with moss or pebbles.   This topdressing not only looks more attractive than plain dirt; it helps hold moisture, insulates the roots as temperatures dive, and it offers some protection from digging squirrels.  If I were using Tulips in the pot, I would be tempted to lay some chicken wire, with large openings, over that layer of bulbs for further protection from marauding rodents.  Tuck in a few cloves of garlic or onion sets to protect your Violas from grazing deer and rabbits.

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Now, the ultimate ‘multi-tasking’ for this sort of planting:  hardwood cuttings.  Many of our woodies will root over winter if stuck into moist soil and left alone for several months.  If you have some shrubs you would like to propagate, take your cuttings and push them artistically into the finished pot.  If they root, fine.  If they don’t, you have still enjoyed the extra sculptural elements they lend over winter while the bulbs are sleeping.

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I've added a hardwood cutting of fig to this new mixed planting with bulb and other flowering plants.

I’ve added a hardwood cutting of fig to this new mixed planting with bulb and other flowering plants.

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This sort of winter ‘living flower arrangement’ takes a bit of planning.  There are lots of choices to make about timing and color schemes, size and scale, costs and placement.  You have to imagine how the bulbs will look when they emerge, so the tall ones are more to the center and the shorter ones nearer the edges; unless the shorter ones will finish before the tall ones emerge.  And the container must be large enough to contain all of those robust roots without cracking; and of material which will hold up to your winter weather.

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This is an excellent way to showcase miniature Daffodils and other delicate, small flowering bulbs.  You might combine several types of daffies to include those which flower early, mid- and late season.  Daffodils with blue Muscari always look great together.

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Ornamental cabbage with Heuchera in a newly planted pot.

Ornamental cabbage with Hellebore in a newly planted pot.

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You might also compose an arrangement of various Iris.  Include some combination of Iris unguicularis, Iris bucharica, Iris histrioides, Iris reticulata, Dutch Iris, and perhaps even a root of German Bearded Iris for a long season of beautiful Iris blooms.

If your winter is especially harsh, plant your container now, water it in, but leave it in an unheated garage or shed until February.  Bring it out into the spring sunshine and enjoy the bulbs when the worst of winter has passed.

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Newly planted Violas with Heuchera

Newly planted Violas with Hellebores.  Bulbs are tucked into the soil, waiting for spring.

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We enjoy the luxury of  Zone 7b, which allows us to grow winter annuals which would die a few states to the north, and also bulbs which wouldn’t survive in the warmer winters to our south.  We also have many winter or early spring  flowering shrubs to plant in our container gardens.

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Arum italicum unfurls its first leaf today. The tuber has been growing for about a month now.

Arum italicum unfurls its first leaf today. The tuber has been growing for about a month now.  Foliage will fill this pot all winter, with flowers appearing in the spring.

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Here are some of the plants I choose most often for these dynamic pots:

Perennials:  Hellebores, Heucheras, Cyclamen hederifolium, Arum, Iris unguicularis, evergreen ferns, culinary Sage, Rosemary, Ivy, Lysimachia nummularia (Creeping Jenny), Sedum rupestre, ‘Angelina’ and other hardy Sedums, Ajuga, Vinca Minor (Periwinkle), hardy Oxalis, Columbine, Dianthus

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Pansies will soon respond to wramer days and nights with renewed growth. Here with miniature daffodils.

Pansies will soon respond to warmer days and nights with renewed growth. Here with miniature daffodils.

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Annuals:  Violas, Panolas, Pansies, Snapdragons, Allysum, ornamental kale or cabbage

Whatever combination of plants you choose, think of these living flower arrangements as narratives which unfold over time.

Time truly is the magical ingredient for baking bread, raising children, and creating beautiful gardens.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

What’s Blooming Now?

Magnolia liliiflora on April 12

Magnolia liliiflora on April 12

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What is blooming now in your garden? 

Spring comes in its own time to each garden.  It fascinates me that whenever the process finally begins, the unfolding is absolutely beautiful no matter how far north or south you may live; how elevated… or not… your garden.

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Here in coastal Virginia, we live just a few feet above sea level.  I can drive a few hours west into the foothills of the Blue Ridge  and travel back by several weeks  into an earlier springtime.  When it comes to climate, altitude, and latitude, are everything!

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Dogwood on April 12

Dogwood on April 12

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It might be interesting to look at what is blooming from day to day.

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The lilacs in bud, and beginning to open on April 12

The lilacs in bud, and beginning to open on April 12

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These photos were actually taken over the last several days, but everything remains in bloom today.

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We’ve had a rainy and warm day here.  We can see a difference in the garden from hour to hour as leaves swell to cover the branches of nearby trees, and as the Azalea buds begin to open and cover our shrubs in color.

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Our wild wood violets have opened over the last several days, carpeting the 'lawns' in vivid color.

Our wild wood violets have opened over the last several days, carpeting the ‘lawns’ in vivid color.

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I’m sure that tomorrow morning the garden will feel even more vibrantly colorful than today, or yesterday.

It is all part of the magic of spring!

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Woodland Gnome 2015

In A Vase On Monday

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The vase today reflects what is happening in the garden:  an abundance of fresh, colorful flowers set against the somewhat ragged remainders of last year’s garden.  Winter’s remnants form the backdrop to all of our blooming trees, budding shrubs, vibrant daffodils and Hellebores, and the emerging perennials.

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The Hellebore in today’s vase is a special favorite of mine with its dark and dusty double flowers.  It lives at the very bottom of the garden, in deep shade.  Its abundant blooms don’t show very well where it grows, and so I was happy to cut two stems for today’s vase.

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More white daffodils, larger ones from a different patch, offer the stark contrast found in the changing seasons.

Spent, spore covered fronds of D. ‘Brilliance’ autumn fern, rescued from where they were lying around the crown of emerging fronds, form the backdrop and help support the soaring branches of blooming redbud, Cercis canadensis.

Also supporting today’s arrangement is a bare, lichen covered branch from an Azalea and two branches of lacy Artemisia.  The Artemisia overwintered, and has just begun to send out fresh leaves.

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This post comes late in the day.  I’ve spent the entire day working out in the garden, stopping only when the sun grew low in the sky and my energy was spent.  Many more pots came out of storage in the garage today, and most of the hanging baskets have moved out of the shade and into their permanent locations.

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See the little guy who hitchhiked indoors on the flowers?

See the little guy who hitchhiked indoors on the flowers?

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I’ve been watching for unfurling fern fronds and photographing them, planting new perennial plugs, cutting back winter damage on the Rosemary, and doing an awful lot of sweeping and raking.

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Leaves have just begun to appear on the redbud trees.  This little branch looked so elegant with its tiny leaves, I had to include it.

Leaves have just begun to appear on the redbud trees. This little branch looked so elegant with its tiny  heart shaped leaves, I had to include it.

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There was lots of company outside today.  Bumblebees, doves, our cardinals, and our cat were all nearby.  My partner appeared from time to time to offer encouragement, open the doors, and lend a hand.

There is just a lot of heavy lifting involved in opening the season in the garden.  I know you know, and are probably in the midst of your own spring chores.

And what happy work to clear the way for a new season of beauty and wonder.  The first bud has appeared on a Fuchsia we’ve carried into its fourth spring.  Japanese painted fern fronds uncurl from another basket beside the tiny maroon leaves of an awakening Oxalis triangularis.

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Trimmings from the Artimesia look so nice against the dusky purple Hellebores.  Do you think they might root in the vase?

Trimmings from the Artemisia look so nice against the dusky purple Hellebores. Do you think they might root in the vase?

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I took a short break after lunch to pull together this little arrangement today, and photograph it, before returning to the work at hand.  The vase was an antique when I bought it thirty odd years ago.  It held Begonia cuttings all winter long.  Now they are planted out in pots, and the vase is free again for flowers.

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The first series of photographs, outside, are in front of our Hydrangea border.  We’ve left the grass to grow as it is full of bulbs and wildflowers.  It will likely get its first trim while I’m away next week.

I added an amethyst cluster and a blown glass plate when the vase came inside.  The amethyst matches the Hellebores so nicely.

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Appreciation, as always, to Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, who generously sponsors A Vase on Monday.  You’ll find links to many wonderful arrangements of spring flowers in her comments.   I find it fascinating to see what is in bloom in other gardener’s gardens across the country and across the sea.

I hope you will find joy in the beauty of your own garden this week, and perhaps clip a few stems to enjoy inside, with a cool drink and your feet up!

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Woodland Gnome 2015

In A Vase on Easter Monday

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Spring has settled gently across our garden.  The warmth has returned quietly to re-awaken the many creatures who slumbered in the Earth through our long winter.

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A sea of daffodils fills the awakening perennial beds and rings our newly planted shrubs.  Woody stems burst into bloom.  Ferns have begun to uncurl their new fronds, and the front lawn is awash in wildflowers.

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Gigantic bees bumble and buzz from flower to flower in giddy joy at the feast.  We hear lizards skittering beneath the dry leaves, and hear frog song in the evening.  The breezes carry sweetness from the flowers, along with clouds of pollen from the trees.

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Ah, spring….

Today’s vase showcases some of our smaller, white daffodils which might otherwise be overlooked among their larger and brighter cousins.  N. “Thalia” remains one of my favorites, along with the larger N. “Mt. Hood,” which I didn’t cut for this vase today.

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I did cut small branches from a deliciously sweet shrub in our side garden which covers itself in white blossoms each spring.  It looks to me like a plum, but fruit never follows its flowers.  The flowers last only a few days, and then we must wait another year for this little woody thing to shine again.  It rarely shows growth, probably because the area where it grows remains hot and dry, and the scene of much tunneling from the voles.  Everything here struggles despite my best efforts to keep the area more accommodating.

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Clippings of overwintered Dusty Miller and Lavender stems give a bit of structure, and hold two tiny white Muscari alba stems.  A few tiny stems of our white flowering Vinca minor peek out around the edges.

This antique silver sugar bowl holding this week’s flowers was passed on from my mother’s mother many years ago.  We believe it was already an antique when she acquired it as a young woman.

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Here are a few photos of other daffodils spared the clippers today.  They remain growing in the garden….

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Appreciation, as always, to Cathy at Rambling in the Garden  for hosting this floral challenge each Monday.  Maybe you will even feel moved to join Cathy’s Monday Vase meme with photos of a vase filled with what may be growing in your own garden this week.  When you visit her, you will find links to beautiful floral arrangements from all over the planet in her comments.

Here are a few other Monday Vases you might enjoy this first Monday in April:

John, at A Walk in the Garden

Cathy at Words and Herbs

And here is the full calendar of garden memes, for other gardeners who might want to follow this and other garden blogging events.  Thanks to Tina and her partner, at My Gardener Says... for organizing the calendar for all of us to use and enjoy!

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Woodland Gnome 2015

 

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