Daffodils & Snowdrops

A landscape gardener’s thoughts turn to Daffodils and Snowdrops.

 

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Some of my more keen readership might have seen a recent poll I put up on Twitter last week. Inspired by the Snowdrops and the Daffodils at this time of year, I decided to see what you, my readers and online followers, believed was your favourite bulb.

The virgin Snowdrop was your favourite. And I couldn’t agree more. With its pure white flowers and graceful curves, they are undoubtedly attractive. To me, they are also the real Valentine’s Day flower. For the last few years now, I have noticed Snowdrops in full bloom in mid February, with hardly a rose flower to be seen except on supermarket shelves. (I often get accused of being ‘unromantic’ by she-who-must-be-obeyed when I offer her a fresh cut of Snowdrops, but I have never seen the point of roses on Valentine’s Day. The Snowdrop is far more symbolic, and natural too, at this that time of year. I have tried to explain to her that bigger isn’t always better but . . . never mind – I’m just digging a hole).

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Everyone has heard the Daffodil poem by Wordsworth, who wandered lonely around the Lake District in a state of semi-lucidity, (though he was the only one of the Lake poets who, I believe, didn’t indulge in Opium), but Tennyson’s Snowdrop poem is quite a memorable little piece too, despite lacking some of the ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’s’ gusto:

Many, many welcomes,
February fair-maid!
Ever as of old time,
Solitary firstling,
Coming in the cold time,
Prophet of the gay time,
Prophet of the May time,
Prophet of the roses,
Many, many welcomes,
February fair-maid!

To me, as a landscape gardener in Worcester and someone who maintains many gardens on a daily basis, this time of year is also fraught with danger. Grasses slow their rate of growth over the cooler days of winter, yet come this time of mid and late February, then people are looking to get their trimmed again to clean up the unkempt winter growth.

This is where good knowledge of a clients’ garden comes into its own: as I go around I know which verges to watch out for, in order not to behead any growing bulbs. Snowdrops, Crocus, and Winter Aconites are the ones to watch out for – as Daffodils are easy to identify in the long grass by their height in comparison to the previous two bulbs.

Such lovely flowers that herald the spring aren’t without their dark sides however. As a child I was told never to pick Daffodils, (though I can’t recall the specific reason). Perhaps it was because we were in a park, and it’s illegal to pick flowers from parks. Or, perhaps, because the Daffodil bulb is poisonous. Just last year, for example, Public Health England issued a waring to supermarkets not to stock Daffodils near onions, in case consumers got them mixed up. There have been 68 cases of Daffodil poisoning in England in the last few years, curing vomiting, abdominal pains, and rashes – so do make sure you can tell the difference before you get them mixed up in the shopping bags on the way home!

As a landscape gardener, I have often been asked to plant these bulbs for my clients so they get their spring warning the following year. The best time to do this is in the autumn for Daffodils and April and May for Snowdrops, but the question of what bulbs to get is an important one, as there is a great price difference between them: the most expensive Snowdrop bulb was bought at auction by Thompson and Morgan for £725.00, an ‘Elizabeth Harrison’ with a golden yellow ovary and yellow petal markings. It looks like a lovely specimen.

But I’m not sure how my clients would feel if they got a bill for that!

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