Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Daffodil Awards

One afternoon in early May I was browsing the plants at a local nursery.  There was another woman shopping there, and we looked at each other.  She was wearing a long down winter coat; I was wearing my fleece and winter hat.  "Only New Englanders would be dressed like this while plant shopping," she commented dryly. 

Ah, spring in New England.  It's been a rollercoaster of cold and rainy mixed with unexpectedly warm and sunny (that early thaw! that late freeze!), but it's made for a long season of spring blooms this year - especially for my favorites, the daffodils.

This year I got to go to the Daffodil Show at Tower Hill Botanical Garden in Boylston, Massachusetts.  It the first Daffodil Show I've seen, and while others said it was quite small this year, due to being in the middle of the week and a very rainy one at that, I loved it.  It was so interesting to see the different types of daffodils - and get ideas for which ones I want for next year...

Clockwise from top right:
Narcissus 'Actaea', Narcissus 'Sentinel', Narcissus 'Oh Wow',
collections of pink-cupped daffodils,
a split corona miniature! Narcissus 'Itsy Bitsy Splitsy',
Narcissus 'Crackington'
It was hard to pick a favorite out of the show, but I think Narcissus 'Chipper' has stolen my heart.  I just love this division of daffodils, called the Triandrus Daffodils, with their nodding heads and swept back petals.

Narcissus 'Chipper'
In honor of this nice long daffodil season, I've decided to highlight some of my favorites from my own garden this year.  They might not win a prize at an awards show, but I enjoy them nonetheless!  Here are my awards for just some of the beloved daffodils here at the Red House Garden:

The Earliest Daffodil Award:
(aka The Most Anticipated Daffodil)

Narcissus 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation'
The last days of winter are usually spent in eager anticipation of the first daffodil to bloom, and Narcissus 'Rijnveld’s Early Sensation' is usually it. This year they started blooming on March 11 and kept on blooming despite late snow and freezing weather.  Definitely an award winner in my book!

The Cutest Daffodil Award:

Narcissus 'Mite'
The pictures I have (taken on my phone) of the miniature 'Mite' Daffodils sadly do not do them justice.  These are teeny tiny little daffodils, and oh so adorable!

Congeniality Award:
(aka Plays Well With Others)

Narcissus 'Thalia'
Narcissus 'Thalia', another one of those beautiful Triandrus daffodils, is lovely just on her own.  However, I think when paired with some of the other spring blooming bulbs, 'Thalia' gets even prettier.

Narcissus 'Thalia' with 'Blue Giant' Glory-of-the-Snow
'Thalia' is especially nice for pastel-colored gardens, where yellow daffodils would be discordant.  I could also see it being great for a patriotic-themed garden with its pure white petals. 

The Showiest Daffodil Award:

Narcissus 'Replete''
The hands-down most luscious daffodil in my garden this year was the doubled Narcissus 'Replete'.  This unique garden diva has so much going on with all those petals!  The colored segments start out yellow-orange...

...and then turn a fabulous coral color.

Narcissus 'Replete'
Replete' is classified as a 'pink' daffodil; however, I would not call the color truly pink.  The coral fades to what I would call a shade of apricot or peach.  Either way, it is a very striking daffodil!

Narcissus 'Replete'

Most Unusual Looking Daffodil Award:
(aka Looks Least Like a Daffodil)

I was chatting with my mailman the other week, and he pointed to a patch of flowers and asked, "What are those flowers?"  "Daffodils," I answered.  "And what's that?" he pointed to some others.  "Daffodils."  "And that?"  "Also Daffodils."  This went on for several more iterations, much to the amusement of my mailman, who probably now thinks all the flowers in my garden are really just strange looking daffodils.

Narcissus 'Trepolo'
There are so many different types of daffodils now, and some are quite a far cry from the standard yellow trumpet variety.  There are some very unusual looking doubles (like my showiest daffodil 'Replete'), but I think the most unconventional looking daffodils are the Split Corona Daffodils, where the cup is split.

Narcissus 'Trepolo', a Split Corona Daffodil
Last year the Most Unusual Daffodil Award might have gone to Narcissus 'Trepolo' with its orange starburst of a center; however, this year it's been edged out by the new addition of the very undaffodil-looking Narcissus 'Electrus'.  Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more...

Narcissus 'Electrus'
Unusual and unexpected-looking daffodils are so much fun to have in the garden.  They add a different look, but are usually still as easy to grow and as critter-proof as the standard yellow trumpet varieties.

There are so many different and beautiful varieties of daffodils that it is easy to catch 'yellow fever', as it's called by daffodil lovers!  Daffodils are one of my favorite flowers, and I'm thankful that this year's season has lasted so long.  The first daffodil bloomed on March 11, and different daffodils were in bloom from then until now near the end of May.  My last to bloom, the miniature Narcissus 'Baby Moon', are finishing off the daffodil season with their diminutive, sweetly-scented flowers.

Narcissus 'Baby Moon'
That is, unless my rather sad-looking (but still alive!) 'Watieri' Daffodils decide to bloom.  (Narcissus 'Watieri', a white-flowering subspecies of daffodil that is native to the mountains of Morocco, is the lucky recipient of my Most Challenging to Grow Daffodil Award!)

Do you have a favorite daffodil?

Narcissus 'Baby Moon'
As always,
Happy Gardening!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Is it Time to Just Stop Planting Tulips?

After some wild fluctuations in weather, spring has finally arrived (still knocking on wood).  Several of my shrubs were affected by the drastic drop in temperatures we had, and I am still waiting to see how well they recover, but the spring bulbs were mostly insulated by snow.  I was delighted to see that the cold barely slowed them down, and they are now blooming their heads off.

Well, most of them...

My tulips are one of the few flowers that I spray with deer deterrent, but I must not have been as diligent with reapplying as I should have been as almost every single one of my fabulous 'Flair' Tulip flowers have been eaten.

a couple surviving tulips
While daffodils are one of my favorite flowers, and I plant a lot of them as well as other bulbs, there's just nothing like that instant impact that a mere handful of those orangey-red tulips makes.

last year's display of tulips, grape hyacinth, and daffodils
Instead, thanks to the greedy deer, my front garden hellstrips definitely look like they are missing something...

Now imagine this with some wonderfully brilliant orangey-red tulips...
I console myself with many of the fabulous and, more importantly, deer-proof bulbs blooming around the yard.

deer-proof daffodils around the greenhouse
Would any of them be bright enough to take the place of my 'Flair' Tulips?

Narcissus 'Barrett Browning'
Bright daffodils take center stage in other places around the garden, especially when underplanted with contrasting flowers.  While I don't think they make quite as bold a statement as the tulips, at least the flowers are happily nibble-free!

Narcissus 'Intrigue', 'Golden Echo', and others with Grape Hyacinth
I fear my tulip planting days are over.

a mass of Narcissus 'Barrett Browning' and 'Trepolo'
The tulips may come back next year, but either way I think I will need to amend my spring plan for my front hellstrip gardens.  Something more deer proof...

Which sadly definitely rules out tulips.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

How Low Can the Snow Peas Go?

Last week saw several inches of snow here in Massachusetts, in what was (hopefully!) winter's last shenanigans.

I was thankful for the snow, as two days later the temperatures dropped into the teens, and my plants needed some insulation.  In fact, enough snow had melted in between that I had to shovel more snow onto my snow pea seedlings in an effort to save them from the cold.

I was worried about my seedlings.  They are called 'snow peas', but just how much cold can snow peas stand?

Apparently, even without snow cover, snow pea seedlings are just fine in temperatures as low as 28°F (-2°C).  In fact, light frosts, which occur between 28°F and 32°F, are actually beneficial to young plants, stimulating more growth.  When temperatures drop to between 20°F and 28°F (-6°C and -2°C) and there is no snow cover, the seedlings can survive but may be the worse for wear.  (It is interesting to note that mature snow pea plants are not as hardy as young ones.  Older plants suffer much more damage from cold and often die when temperatures hit freezing.)

While snow pea seedlings are remarkably hardy all on their own, give them a little snow and you'd be amazed.  With an insulating blanket of snow cover, young snow peas can survive temperatures as low as 10°F  or even 5°F (-12°C to -15°C)!

I'm happy to report that, thanks to their snowy covering, all my seedlings survived last week's cold.
I guess they don't call them 'snow' peas for nothing!

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