Over the last four weeks, my annual enjoyment of daffodils has almost become an obsession. We are experiencing the first spring in our new home and I have being watching with anticipation (and some impatience) to see what, if any, spring bulbs we have inherited. I am delighted that my assumption that it would be the usual and very familiar varieties we see everyday was completely wrong. We have at least seven different varieties around the garden and hence my new obsession in the Narcissus family, as I strive to identify which varieties and cultivars I now proudly own.
At the same time, I am also making notes on which appear to be growing the best or need moving and sticking a pea stick in any clumps which haven't flowered. These ones, I will dig up once the foliage has died, as I suspect they have become over-crowded as the bulbs have multiplied over the years. I will keep and replant the healthiest bulbs 5-7cm apart. All bulbs will benefit from a general feed such as Growmore as they finish flowering and I will add some to the soil when re-planting as well.
Spring bulbs, such as narcissus, are an incredibly easy low-maintenance way of adding colour to your garden with some varieties flowering as early as January and February and others as late as April. You can buy pots of narcissus from your garden centre now, but this is a very expensive way to buy them. It's much cheaper to buy them as bulbs, so make a note on your calendar at the beginning of October to remind yourself.
There are many different varieties in all shades and combinations of yellow and white and even some with orange or peach trumpets. The height and size of flowers also vary so you can choose those which best suit you and your garden. There are excellent specialist nurseries and suppliers on-line offering a much wider choice than you will find in the big chain garden centres or supermarkets. I would definitely recommend that you drool over the offerings of Chelsea gold winner Avon Bulbs and Croft16 Daffodils who hold the national collection.
How have I got on naming ours? Well, it's slow work but I think two may be 'Biggar Bountiful' and the honey-scented 'Magnificence. We might also have one of the oldest varieties available 'Telemonius Plenus', which also carries the uncomplimentary name 'Guernsey Cabbage' - although to be honest it has more character than looks. There are so many varieties and the differences can be subtle so I am hoping the experts at the UK Daffodil Society will help me with the rest.
Maybe you have a favourite variety you would like to share?
Fancy a hit of chocolate without the calories? Cosmos atrosanguineus is a beautiful perennial with velvet maroon petals held above pretty foliage and a mouth-watering scent combination of vanilla and chocolate. It's quite tender so tricky to over-winter, but worth indulging in a plant or two near a favourite seat. The cultivar 'Chocomocha' is said to be particularly chocolate-y, definitely one on the shopping list for my balcony this year.
Photo by pemberlolly via Flikr
A pretty climber with the wonderful combination of chocolate flowers and spicy vanilla scent is Akebia quinata or Chocolate Vine. Semi-evergreen it has fragrant spring flowers sometimes followed by strange purple fruits. The waxy leaves will fall in cold winters but take on a purplish tint as the weather cools. Despite its exotic appearance it's quite hardy and will tolerate some shade.
If chocolate is not for you, how about the irresistibly named Iris 'Butter and Sugar'. It looks as delicious as it sounds and I am looking forward to seeing it in flower in one of my clients' gardens. It is quite happy in moist or boggy soil and we have used it near a pond which sometimes floods. Photo by noramunro via Flikr
One personal favourites is Jasminum officinale 'Clotted Cream'. It has abundant creamy flowers with a rich scent and is perfect near a path or seat. Although said to prefer full sun, I had one which flowered profusely on an east-facing fence despite been overshadowed by mature trees. It can cope with dry soil and so a good choice for containers.
Although a big fan of chocolate Easter eggs, I've been looking for some alternative Easter treats which will amuse my friends and be guilt-free. Luckily I have found lots of inspiration and enjoyed myself browsing through my plant books and the internet. Below are a few of my current favourites.
For friends with a savoury palate or appreciating a more traditional Easter link a packet of Poached Egg plant seeds (Limnanthes douglasii) is ideal. Scatter the seeds where you want them to grow and you will have a cheerful carpet of flowers all summer. It will also attract hoverflies who will hoover up your aphids, so a good choice for your vegetable patch.
Photo by anyjazz65 via Flikr
Finally a suggestion that is edible , Mentha x piperita f. citrata 'Chocolate' or more simply Chocolate Mint. It has lovely dark stems and a purple flush to the leaves. Bees and other pollinators will love the typical mauve flowers and the leaves are delicious. Reminiscent of After Eights when crushed they make a lovely addition to salads, puddings or summer cocktails. Like all mints it prefers the sun and is best in a container as it will spread.
There are many more plants with delicious names so you can tailor your gift (or personal treat) accordingly and have some fun in the process. Off now to finish my Easter shopping, I wonder if I can find something suitable for a liquorice fiend?
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