31 March 2019
Daffodils and annual climbers
It may be a bit late this year given the mild winter to talk about daffodils, but they are such a cheery, welcome sight when they arrive in spring. All you have to do is plant them early autumn the pointy side up about twice their depth and away they go for years and years. Having said that, some are better do-ers than others when it comes to increasing and flowering.
The best early ones here are February gold, closely followed by February silver. This year they DID appear in February, but in a ‘normal’ season (whatever that is!) they rarely emerge before March. Like all daffodils, I do try and deadhead them and give them a little feed once the flowers fade, but apart from that I let them get on with it. Tete a tete are usually the little chaps you see sold in pots everywhere. If you have succumbed, pop them into your garden once they are over and, like many spring bulbs such as hyacinths, snowdrops, fritillaries and crocus, they will come up again in subsequent springs.
Don’t cut off the leaves, or tie them in knots, that will prevent their leaves from putting food back into the bulbs. Grit your teeth and be a bit untidy, the bulbs will thank you for it and reward you next year!
‘Jenny’ are another favourite, flowering next, mid March this year. They are graceful and reliable with soft lemon middles and creamy outer, slightly outward curving petals. The native (some disagree I know) Lent Lily with the rather scary name of Narcissus pseudonarcissus are really lovely in a gentle, understated way, we have them under silver birches at Charnwood. Lent lilies take a few years to get going but now, after around 10 years, they are making their presence felt. Only standing at around 15 cm with soft yellow trumpets they will seed around and very slowly increase if you can give them the right conditions. For the best in elegance and style, ‘Hawera’ take some beating, and flower later, sometimes into early summer. They do tend to run out of steam here after a few years but are dwarf and very dainty, so look especially lovely in pots. Last but not least to mention and flower, ‘Thalia’, a triandrus hybrid meaning several blooms to each stem. She is almost pure white and fabulous. You may have guessed that we like the paler and smaller daffodils, but there are varieties to suit everyones taste if you prefer something brighter and more muscular. We have had daffodils flowering here from December right through to May in some years, they are a huge and diverse group of bulbs.
If , like me, you were happy to see Monty Don return with Gardeners’ World in March, you may have seen a piece on annual climbers. This prompted me to get the books out and try something a bit more unusual. Of course sweet peas are a must and we already have the Chilean Glory Vine, Eccremocarpus scaber. This easy climber has ferny leaves and bright orange flowers (it also comes in pink and yellow shades), seeds around and climbs impressively in a very short time. It is easy to pull up if it gets too bossy and invasive and looks lovely scrambling through our variegated yuccas. And of course sweet peas are a must! So I’m revisiting an old friend I’d forgotten about, Rhodochiton astrosanguineus or the purple bell vine. It isn’t the easiest thing to get going from seed in my experience, so I found some mini plants online. It is a more gentle climber, so needs a smaller host. A Japanese maple may be good?