Lately, I am obsessed with daffodils. I have cut back most of the rather dull perennials under the tree in the front flower bed and am looking for some bright color there for next year. And what color is more cheerful than the gold of daffodils?
Every time I see a package of bulbs in a store, I am drawn to the spot, and so far have planted seven dozen daffodils as well as a few crocuses, all in front of the house. They include a wide variety of colors and shapes, from plain gold through yellow and white, single and double, tall and short. So, in the spring, there should be a burst of color in that shady, rather dark place.
There is something magical about burying those dry, papery bulbs 6 inches down in the ground, and knowing the first green leaves will appear while winter is still around, bringing the promise of spring.
I can't wait. I guess that is part of the joy of gardening, always having something to look forward to.
When buying bulbs, look for the ones that are full and heavy. Any that are light for their size may have had an insect problem and are best avoided.
The bulbs should be planted in an area that gets a few hours of sun each day, but remember spaces in tree shade may be sunny in early spring before the tree leaves out, and so will work well. Do not plant bulbs in wet areas because they may rot.
Plant about 6 inches deep, and water well in the first few days after planting. Then, the bulb will produce root growth during the winter. Begin watering again in the spring, and you can feriilize them as soon as the leaf tips appear.
Late spring snow or frost will not harm the new shoots. We all have seen those pictures of daffodils blooming through the snow.
The only time in their lives daffodils are not pleasant to behold is after blooming when that lank foliage seems to take an age to die back. Put up with it until the leaves are completely yellow to allow the nutrients to go back into the bulb for next year's growth, and then foliage can be cut off.
Planting daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and crocuses among perennials such as hostas will hide the droopy leaves because they take their time to die back.
Do not resort to tricks such as braiding the dying leaves or tying them into bundles. This just hampers the process of absorbing nutrients from top growth when it chokes off the channels.
The ancestors of today's daffodils came from areas around the Mediterranean Sea, and have been mentioned in literature dating to 200 B.C. They were grown by the Greeks and Romans.
Taken to Britain by the Romans, they were thought to have healing powers, and came to us from Europe with the early settlers.
Most daffodils bloom for about two weeks, but by selecting early and late blooming varieties, it is possible to have the cheerful bright flowers around for six weeks or more, from March to May.
There are many small, flowering bulbs that are attractive additions to the spring garden. Try grape hyacinths or Scylla, which are hardy and lend some welcome blues in the flower bed.
Now is the time to plant.
Most years, I equate planting bulbs with frozen fingers, but this year I am getting the job done early. I can hardly wait for spring!
Janet Del Turco is a local gardener and a graduate of the Ohio State University Master Gardener program. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.