Outdoor Cultivation Of Daffodils

PREPARATION OF THE GROUND

A well-drained soil, deeply worked and containing some humus, is the ideal for the narcissus. The plant will in no way tolerate a water-logged soil, nor one of an acid nature. The bulbs flower in abundance in a soil which contains leaf mould in the natural state, such as is to be found in woodlands, though the best bloom is from bulbs planted away from the hungry roots of tall trees.

Dappled shade will enable the blooms to remain in a fresh condition for as long a period as possible and will prevent fading should the weather be unduly sunny. An ideal position is between the rows of orchard trees in soil of fibrous loam which has received an occasional top dressing of peat or well-rotted manure. In no way should any animal manure be in direct contact with the bulbs though wool shoddy, decayed leaves, peat, hop manure and bean or pea haulm worked into the ground will help to retain the necessary moisture round- the bulbs. Outdoor Cultivation Of Daffodils

Wet, clay soil should be lightened and made suitable for daffodils by incorporating a quantity of grit before opening up the texture with the humus materials. Woodland soil will be suitable for planting without any special preparation. Land which is of an acid nature should be given a light dressing of lime though this should not be overdone, for the daffodil prefers a soil which is slightly acid to one too alkaline.

When planting in the border or beds the ground should be prepared early in August, so that it is allowed time to settle before the bulbs are planted early in September. Just before planting the ground should be given a light dressing with wood ash and a 2-oz. per square yard dressing of steamed bone flour which should be raked into the soil. Established beds, or bulbs planted in short grass will also benefit from a yearly dressing with bone flour and a peat mulch given early in February before the foliage appears above the ground.

When planting with members of the primrose family, such as blue primroses or blue polyanthus, which are so enchanting when planted with Golden Harvest or King Alfred daffodils, the plants should be placed into a position immediately after the bulbs are planted 4 in. deep and 6 to 8 in. apart. If the ground is being used for summer bedding plants, these may be left in position and planting of the beds delayed until early October, though early September planting is preferable. The great advantage of planting in an orchard or a shrub border is that the bulbs will in no way interfere with the plants or trees and may be planted at the correct time and left undisturbed. Another valuable point is that the blooms will be afforded protection from cold and often severe winds during spring, which is always appreciated by daffodils.

When planting in an orchard, remember that it will not be possible to cut the grass until the foliage has died down and this will be about the last day of June. The ground will then be clean and short to facilitate gathering of the fruit. The scythe should then be used again early in December when the fruit has been removed and this will keep the grass short and tidy whilst the bulbs are in their spring glory. Cutting should not take place after December 1st or there may be the chance that the young shoots of crocus, daffodils or other early flowering bulbs will be harmed. Of course this does not apply to bulbs planted round the trees in the circles made by the grass having been cut away. Here the soil should be lightly forked over and top dressed early in November. Here too, primroses and polyanthus may be planted but should not of course be planted in the grass of an orchard which is kept cut. In the woodland garden where they may be left untouched they will be happy planted with other bulbs.

Nor is it advisable to plant daffodils on the lawn which is to be kept frequently cut and tidy all the year round. Where possible plant the bulbs along the edge of a lawn if there is no other place available and this strip can be left uncut until the foliage has died back. I am lucky in that my study looks across a lawn which is surrounded on two sides by a shelter belt of beech trees beneath which the sparse grass is left untouched. There the bulbs are planted in masses and their beauty can be enjoyed to the full from the windows of the room and the bulbs can bloom and wilt at leisure, protected from cold winds by a row of wattle hurdles.

When planting for profit, the bulbs will be either planted in prepared beds or in orchards, but in either case the beds should be made 4 ft. wide to enable picking to be done easily. And so that staking will not be necessary, plant the bulbs din. Apart each way. If Dutch lights are to be used for covering the beds, use a 4-ft. Light and make the beds just under 4 ft. wide.

SIZE OF BULBS

What size bulb to plant is often a question of speculation. Daffodils and narcissi are advertised as ‘Double-Nose ‘Double-Nose 2’, ‘Double-Nose 3 and Rounds’. These bulbs are of enormous proportions and will produce several flowers. The ‘Double-Nose 2’ size are cheaper and generally used for cool-house or home culture in pots. ‘Rounds’ are suitable for garden culture while large ‘Rounds’ are the best for forcing. As with all bulbs it is my opinion that the firm, virile, round bulb of good average size is the most suitable for planting for cool conditions indoors and for open-air culture under glass. Often the monster top-size bulbs have lost their vitality and have become too acclimatized to their original surroundings to be entirely satisfactory. Even a good-sized offset will produce a top-quality bloom if given cool treatment. The skin should be clean, light brown and smooth and the bulbs firm when lightly pressed with the thumb. Smaller-sized rounds will be ideal for outdoor planting if they measure up to this standard.

Bulbs planted in borders or in beds which may remain undisturbed, should be lifted and divided every three years. This is not vital if one is pressed for time during September, but it should be the rule where possible and where bloom of exhibition quality is required. The offsets should be removed and planted in a nursery bed and the bulbs which will have now formed clusters of good-sized bulbs, should be carefully pulled apart and replanted into fresh beds if possible or into the same ground which has been sweetened and enriched. This work of lifting, dividing and replanting may be done any time after the leaves have turned yellow and died down, which may safely be taken to be from July 1st. Indeed many growers growing under cloches or frames plant the bulbs during early August to allow them as long as possible in the ground before covering them early in the new year.

Most of the well-known exhibitors lift and divide the bulbs in July before new root action commences, for they contend that should this take place, the check will seriously impair the ability of the bulbs to produce a bloom of top quality. But the daffodil is one of the most accommodating of all plants, and may even be planted as late as December (which was once my experience when changing homes). Though the blooms were later in appearing in spring they seemed only a little below exhibition standard. If the bulbs are to remain out of the ground for any length of time they should be placed on shallow trays in a dry but quite cool room. If sending the bulbs through the post they should be packed in dry peat to prevent bruising.

GROWING UNDER CLOCHES

Daffodils and Narcissi are ideal plants for growing under barn-cloches, Ganwicks or frames. The bulbs should be planted in

August if possible into prepared beds of the required width. If cloches are being used, two rows may be placed side by side with a path between each double row. My own method is to cover the beds with straw and soil or ashes during early autumn in order that moisture may be retained and a strong rooting system formed. The covering is removed towards the year’s end when the rows are covered with glass.

As soon as the plants have finished flowering the glass is removed; and when the foliage has died down, this is removed and the bed given a top dressing with peat and old mushroom-bed compost.

When growing daffodils in the home garden, down the sides of paths or in beds near the house, much untidiness of the leaves may be overcome while they are dying down if they are tied loosely together in knots. Or again where time for gardening is limited, the leaves may be pegged down at ground-level with wire sprigs and the summer bedding plants set out between the rows of leaves early in June. The leaves may be removed in a month’s time and before the bedding plants become too large.

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