Daffodils will bring joy to the senses and an uplift to the spirit every spring no matter how they are planted.
However, they can give increased pleasure if in the fall you take time to consider color combinations, patterns of arrangement and periods of bloom, in addition to following the fundamentals of good planting.
I’ve witnessed daffodils are naturalized on beautiful rolling woodlands, with large evergreens, shade trees, plenty of rocks and natural ledges and trickling brooks, which created beautiful landscaping effects.
Each spring when a field of daffodil flowers bursts forth in a blaze of glory, the slopes and fields covered with hundreds daffodil varieties, producing thousands of blooms. One glance at the sweep of varied color up a long rolling hillside each spring is enough to assure you that there must always be a an ongoing naturalized daffodil planting happening.
Any amateur gardener can start a simple daffodil planting and over the years, develop it into a place of striking beauty. Select a location that has possibilities, one which is open enough to permit several hours of sunlight, with irregular land, deciduous trees, large rocks or ledges and a stream or pond.
Retain plant materials natural to the area. Do not introduce flowering trees and shrubs foreign to your locality as background material. Work to use only the “native” materials to retain a true rustic setting. Ornamental plantings would destroy the informal, carefree effect inherent in nature.
Picture Your Planting
Once the plot has been selected, the real fun begins. Sit down and let your imagination dream about what could be done to make your plot more interesting.
- How could the contour of the land be broken to give a rolling effect or to create interesting pockets?
- What could be dune to give the plot some open patches of land which would be fully exposed to the sun?
- How could you retain fairly well shaded places to help lengthen your period of bloom, yet which would be open enough to provide several hours of daily sunshine?
- How could a brook be enhanced? Could its course be changed?
- Is there a spring or pond nearby which could be directed through your planting?
- Which small trees could be replanted for a better effect?
- Could landscape rocks be laid to form a stone wall?
- Could you build a jagged wood fence?
When you have planned out your idea, you will enjoy even more creating the planting.
After you have planned the over-all effect, you are ready to think about planting your bulbs for the most striking mass color effect.
- Do not plant a bulb of each variety singly, as the color effect is lost.
- Only groups of daffodils of the same color will give a color pattern that makes a good show.
- Planting in clumps is effective in borders and even beside trees, but the most effective pattern for a large naturalized planting.
I enjoy planting in drifts of color. The simplest way to do this is to fill a pale with bulbs, then gently strew them across the grass and plant them where they fall. To get many interesting patterns, vary your method of strewing so that you do not get a similarity of pattern.
Think of using individual and group cloud drifts on clear, sunny days as guides in laying out daffodil groupings. You will find clouds take on a variety of interesting shapes as they float across the sky, often resembling ragged animals, states, countries and continents. Masses of them often look like chains of islands strewn out over a wide expanse of ocean.
Leave Open Spaces
The bulb planting should be more concentrated in the center of a drift than at the ends. Bulbs are usually arranged 6 to 8 inches apart in the center of a drift and 12 to 18 inches near the outside. This spacing will result in an artistic pattern, especially if the border is irregular and occasional open spaces are left, just as one sees patches of blue sky in an actual cloud drift.
For a satisfactory mass color effect a drift should contain at least 25 bulbs of one color. Even 100 is not too many.
In large, open fields, several hundred of the same color can be used to good advantage. To give variation in the over-all planting, alternate groupings of daffodils, say, a drift of yellow trumpets followed by a drift of white trumpets.
If the area is extensive, a number of drifts of the same color or variety may be planted at intervals to make colored ribbons.
If you are already enjoying the well-established varieties of daffodils, you might want to try a few novelties to round out your collection.
Backdrops for Daffodils
To enhance the panoramic beauty of your planting, you might include a number of apple trees. These should be selected with regard to their blooming period so that some of them will be in blossom throughout the daffodil season. A choice tree… a crabapple, 30 feet high and 25 feet wide, forming a solid mass of glorious blossoms when in flower, its lower branches curving down to the ground.
You also might intensify the color of your daffodils by planting clumps or drifts of numerous grape hyacinths alongside or between them. Use white hyacinths with yellow daffodils and blue hyacinths with white ones.
Planting and Care
Your daffodil bulbs should be planted in September or October. There are several good planting methods: you could cut a triangular hole with a spade or grub axe, make a deep hole 3 to 4 inches wide with a crowbar or dig a hole with a special bulb planter.
Put a generous amount of compost, 2/3 loam and 1/3 leafmold or peat and a good sprinkling of bonemeal in the bottom of the hole. Be sure the base of the bulb is imbedded in the compost and that the top of the bulb is covered by 4 inches of loam.
Avoid planting daffodils in low, wet places, or they will be subject to basal rot. Likewise, avoid planting daffodils on a high dry knoll where they would not receive sufficient moisture in June, the period during which the bulbs arc rebuilding themselves. Large ledges seem to retain enough moisture.
Do not cut the grass in a naturalized daffodil planting until mid-July, or until daffodil foliage has fully ripened. If the grass remains uncut and is permitted to decay, you will not need fertilizer.
Now go daffodil crazy!