The Night Before Spring

This afternoon the cold front which has been sweeping across the country reached this end of Pennsylvania, and temperatures have been dropping since.  Once again I’m wearing a long sleeve shirt and right now I’m considering wearing it to bed.  The chilly thing got old real quick when the snow flurries started flying again.

magnolia ann

Magnolia ‘Ann’ is a common and relatively cheap variety, and this afternoon it’s amazingly special and perfect and I’d still grow it even if every yard had one.  I’m hoping tonight’s freeze doesn’t end this.

I’m 95% sure all the wisteria buds were fried by our last freeze, so this current one isn’t even cold enough to make me nervous.  I was eyeing the tomato seedlings which sprouted on their own, and was thinking about using them for a big tomato sauce planting this summer but I guess tonight will decide how that ends up.  A different gardener would have their seedings already growing indoors and nearly ready to plant out but this gardener is a little more go with the flow.  He’s even too lazy to dig up a couple trowel-fulls to shelter in the garage, and in fact he thought a better use of time would be to browse daffodil offerings online and place orders.  Hmmmm.

narcissus beersheba

A few of the daffodils thinned and re-planted last summer, narcissus ‘Beersheba’ on the right and ‘not-Indian Maid’ on the left.  How annoying that after years of growing, one online check and I find ‘Indian Maid’ is a supposed to be a multi-flowering jonquilla, and not a single bloom large cup….

I was sort of aggressive last year with bed building and daffodil thinning.  I don’t regret it, but I do miss them all slouching around the back of the vegetable plot and moving on from the earlies to the lates, even if they did make me feel guilty for their neglected growing conditions.  One plus to less tomatoes is that it opens a whole raised bed to fill with new daffodil varieties.  So far I know there will be at least eight and of course planting season is still six months away so anything could happen.

narcissus stella

Narcissus ‘Stella’ is a newer one for me, and I’m shocked by how much I love the old fashioned pre-1869 look of wavy petals and nodding blooms.   

Even with a three year moratorium on new daff and tulip purchases, they trickle in anyway.  Gifts, surprises, impulse buys, they slip across the border and I complain about where to put them, not having room, and whining about not giving the ones here already the care they deserve, but within a few years they settle in and make the garden a richer place.  Sure there’s a point in caring for what I have, but honestly it’s been years, and if I was really serious about taking care of what I have…

narcissus high society

Narcissus ‘High Society’ in the front beds.  A well respected variety which just never thrilled me, and as ‘the cull’ continues I’ll need to re-home a bunch of these.  

Part of my problem is (1)I like smaller clumps, and (2) I’m sloppy and always dropping a bulb or two in some spot where it takes off and forms yet another clump.

narcissus jetfire

Don’t know how ‘Jetfire’ and ‘maybe Bravoure’ ended up here, but both are doing well in a spot I thought was too shady for nice daffodils.  Actually the colors are stronger and fade less out of the sun, so maybe more of the orange and red cups here is a good plan?

Years ago I made the “mistake” of dumping a couple hundred moldy and rotten tulips on the compost pile, only to find them coming up all over the yard in every spot where a little compost was meant to help.  Last year I was determined to not let a single daffodil repeat that fiasco.  Extras and the unwanted were dug right after and during bloom, and after sitting out in the sun and rain in five gallon buckets I eventually dumped the stinky mess into black plastic bags which sat out in the 90F sun for another few weeks.  Finally I dragged the bags behind the compost pile where various wild animals proceeded to rip through the plastic and root through the mess looking for all the tasty worms and maggots which were feeding on all the decay.  Half rotted bulbs were scattered all over, and obviously these tortured and neglected bulbs thrown around and never planted grew just fine and even flowered this spring.  Also somewhat obviously, many of the cared-for bulbs which were dried and stored and sorted somewhat properly, ended up molding or rotting.  Sometimes I wonder why I bother.

daffodil transplanting

Growing right where the skunk or raccoon left them, like an idiot I’m looking at these and thinking they’re so nice I should really plant them out and re-think tossing them.  Every day I have to fight the urge to sabotage my grand ‘thinning the herd’ daffodil project…

Must. Stay. Strong.

daffodil accent

‘Accent’ was divided a few years ago and is looking good.  

I am liking how the divided bulbs are looking, and really need to keep going.  Rather than review splayed and floppy clumps of crowded bulbs flattened by a windy day I’m enjoying sturdier plantings where the individual blooms can be appreciated more.

daffodil firebird

Daffodil ‘Firebird’

I’m serious though, I have to keep strong.  Even bulbs divided just yesterday were actually last divided five or six years ago and it’s time to give them a little attention again.  I feel bad being ruthless with such giving plants, but…

daffodil garden

More clumps in need of thinning.  

So that’s a pretty elaborate story to cover my latest daffodil purchase, and to be honest I’m pretty sure no one but myself would notice that there are any fewer flowers in the yard compared to last year.  What they will notice though, and I’m sure share a few comments on is when they see me wandering around the yard in October with a concerned and confused look on my face and a couple bags of “even more” bulbs in my hands.  I could get defensive, but I’ll just say you don’t even know my struggle.  Tulips are still on a no-buy list and you can’t have too many tulips, even if they sprout up out of your compost.

flaming purissima tulip

‘Flaming Purissima’, a genetically streaked tulip, as opposed to the virus-streaked tulips of the past.

I’m possibly more excited about tulip season than I am about daffodils.  A few antique ‘broken’ tulips slipped in while no one was looking and I’m anxious to see them bloom.

tulip breaking virus

The virus which causes the streaked flowers of ‘broken’ tulips is also showing in the leaves.  I didn’t think growing a virused tulip would bother me but it’s all I see when I do the rounds.

Tulip season will be awesome.  I know this weather is just a blip in the spring arsenal but I do feel for the people suffering through serious snow and magnolia frying temperatures, and I hope they sail through it somewhat unscathed.  Regardless tomorrow we start climbing back up into civilized temperatures and I’m sure we’ll be complaining about heat soon enough.

All the best!

22 comments on “The Night Before Spring

  1. Paddy Tobin says:

    The daffodils are coming to the end of their season here (Waterford, south-east Ireland) though the poeticus narcissus are in bud and should open within the week. I planted a lot of these into grass three years ago and have had only foliage since. One possible explanation is that they were immature bulbs and I do see a few buds appearing at the moment so I live in hopes of a recovery. Tulips are into full swing here – many in pots which are only fleeting annual displays as the bulbs rarely flower for the second year. Species tulips and their cultivars are doing better and I much prefer their perennial displays. We have had about ten nights of frost but it has done very little damage – hostas and primula japonica foliage was damaged and, surprisingly, the magnolias escaped untouched. To better and warmer days!

    • bittster says:

      Good luck on the poeticus buds! It took me a few years to develop an appreciation, but now the poets and small cup daffodils are some of my favorites. Strange that they haven’t bloomed before, I would think purchased bulbs would all be of blooming size but you never know.
      I can picture your meadow speckled with poet’s narcissus as we head into May, and I think it’s going to be perfect!
      I don’t think my magnolia was as lucky with our last freeze. It did look a bit brown, but maybe there are still enough buds coming to continue the show.
      Your T. bakerii are fantastic! For some reason the hybrids do well here yet bakerii faded away in just two years!

  2. OK, that does it! I’m not going to make the long trip down to Longwood; I’m just going to come to your yard! I grew Flaming Purissima either last year or the year before, and I loved it! I’m glad someone else names their unknown flowers with “Not …” This year I grew an amaryllis I now call ‘Not Blushing Bride.’ After several little snow showers yesterday, we had just a small dusting of snow on the hard surfaces this morning. Some of the dafs are lying down, but I suspect they’ll pop back up soon enough. That’s what they did after the last snow, what , 10 days ago? The tulips made a lot of progress this week, sending up stalks and buds–should see the first open in a few days, if we really get the temperatures AccuWeather is promising. I really need to take my notebook with me next time I do a walk-around, and see what’s what with the new daffs I planted last year. So far, just the earlies have opened–King Alfred are almost done, Jetfire, Fellow’s Favorite, and just two days ago, Fortissimo opened. If you don’t have those, you need to get some! Nice post! Reminds me that I have a benignly neglected blog of my own I should update!

    • bittster says:

      The tulips here are probably just two warm days away from opening. Just in time to sweat out the 80F weather next week! I do like Flaming Purissima 🙂 i hope I can keep it around for a couple years even as I work through my tulip fire issues!
      Speaking of amaryllis I’m not sure how much longer I can keep up with the collection. My enthusiasm is fading so I might be looking for new homes some year soon. I’ll try and fatten them up first, they were quite neglected a year or two ago but seem to be coming back.
      ‘Fortissimo’ is one which I decided I didn’t want any more but now kind of miss. The flowers are so big and shout out spring when they’re in bloom and who can complain about having too much of that?
      Get on that blog! You’re getting spoiled having that child back at home to run your adventures with 😉

  3. Eliza Waters says:

    It is hard to muster enthusiasm to dig and divide bulbs… It is hard enough just planting them in the first place… and what to do with the extras? After a while one runs out of eager adopters. 😉
    However, I’m enjoying your efforts in the ‘great daffodil purge of 2020.’ They are budding up nicely~ Thanks, again for sharing their beauty!

    • bittster says:

      Oh good. I thought I was alone in dreading those late fall procrastinated bulb planting tasks! Sure it’s worth it in the spring, but on a cold November afternoon it’s almost the last thing I’d like to do.
      Don’t try and scare me with the idea of running out of adopters!!! I need as many as I can find!

  4. I have the same random experiences with bulbs due to accidental plantings and rodent participation. Your Daffs are great with an excellent assortment. Myself I am a bit apprehensive about tulip season. Other than the early species and water lily tulips, signs point to fewer blooms this year than last. But our Daffs have been pretty good this spring and I’d say we’re set for a final wave of Narcissi blooms.

  5. We have snow this morning with the grass poking through. Low of 25F last night. Haven’t checked the star magnolia yet which was just, just, just getting ready to bloom. Like Eliza I’m enjoying the results of your daffodil purge. Keep me on the list!

  6. Lisa Rest says:

    We didn’t get real snow, only a flurry or two, but we have the cold. All my tulips have been planted here and there by squirrels and they were blooming or starting to but with mostly native perennials I am not seeing a lot of color yet. I know I don’t have your patience or gift for garden organization. I have to get better yet at remembering what I planted where, but I always find it fascinating (and often irritating) how plants have their own agenda anyway. Carry on! I’m sure your attention to the challenge will bear beautiful blooms.

    • bittster says:

      Sometimes people get caught up in the work of a garden and don’t take the time to see and enjoy what’s going on. It’s such an interesting process to see things grow (or not) and watch how it all comes together (or not). My garden is absolutely not organized. I’ve got some emails saved for plant orders, some labels in a box, and other than that I just add more plants than I should. Between that, the help of animals, and the ‘oh you need this’ of other gardeners, it quickly becomes a fantastic mess!

  7. Cathy says:

    It’s always up and down with the temperatures at this time of year, and I have just hauled all my seedlings back indoors as frost is forecast for tonight… they nearly got frazzled in the sun today! For someone who has had a daffodil purge I am afraid I would never have noticed. 😉 I do admire you for remembering all their names… My tulips have started opening now too. Purissima is lovely.

    • bittster says:

      I’m barely through the daffodil purge and I’ve already ordered a few more. It’s a terrible habit but I feel obligated to support my fellow gardeners 🙂
      Good luck with the seedlings! All I have this spring is a small potful of dahlia seedlings coming along and a bunch of seed packets on the table which I still think I’ll manage to start someday. We will see, but even if it doesn’t happen no one will ever notice 😉

  8. pbmgarden says:

    Beautiful daffodils. Why place limits on such beauties!

  9. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I have been enjoying some of those daffodils you thinned out last year. They have been blooming nicely with my white lilac. I have those red striped tulips too. The rabbits thought they looked tasty but didn’t eat the one they bit off. Thanks again.

    • bittster says:

      How irritating that they do the damage but then don’t even finish the meal….
      Glad the daffodils came up! Some of the ones I replanted were only so-so, and I think they’ll need another year to bulk up again for a nice show.

  10. You had FLURRIES? Ouch, and I thought my 39-degree overnight on that same day was traumatic enough. 😦 Having lost all of my Narcissus ‘Stainless’ that were planted in autumn 2019 (well, there was ONE that came up, but just two spindly leaves – no blooms), as well as Misty Glen that was in the same bed, I am giving that area ONE more chance with ‘Falmouth Bay’. If those disappear over the winter also, I am giving up on daffs in that bed. Maybe there is a curse on it? lol

    • bittster says:

      That’s terrible. Some of the white narcissus are known to rot over summer in a damp, warm spot but here it’s only been a few and I don’t think it bothered whatever else was planted in the location afterwards. Of course I’d suggest trying again and again until it works!
      If it says anything about resisting basal rot, thats a good thing. Good luck… and if that doesn’t help I’d really consider looking into the curse thing a little more.

  11. I am mentally and physically exhausted from four nights of covering a ridiculous amount in my garden. But when the temp gets down to 23°F and the Martagons are up 18″, I am not taking any chances. I mainly grow N. poeticus in a big patch, so I am your polar opposite. And I’ve given up on Tulips except for Sylvestnis and Wittallii. I love the look of yours but could never squeeze them in come autumn.

    • bittster says:

      Haha, I’m surprised you still manage to fit anything in there!
      I saw a few pictures of those species tulips and am wondering why I haven’t tried any yet. I know I’ve avoided the yellow ones because I’ve already got so much yellow here, but T. whittallii would be kind of awesome if it started to spread around here 🙂
      I scared myself this spring by looking at a few sedges and epimedium and thought they looked very interesting. It never ends, right?

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