Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Daffodil Season is Here!

Daffodil blooming season is here!

As you wander around our countryside, you can see daffodils growing - and many blooming already! Daffodil season is here! Different daffodils respond to our Spring climate in different ways. Each bulb has a natural trigger that causes it to begin to grow after a receiving a set amount of sun and rain. That means different types of daffodils can start to grow from early January to mid April in Northern California. The bulbs that get their required sun and rain each year become ‘naturalized’ – growing and blooming each year without external care.

This has a beneficial aspect for us who are gardeners! We can select bulbs of cultivars which will give us pleasing blooms and plant them in our garden – as well as in other areas where they will be seen but likely not be disturbed. All we need is knowledge of when they will bloom naturally. We are somewhat restricted; our sea level climate encourages early bloom starting in January, but it grows too warm to allow daffodils to bloom after the early days of April. Still, that is over three months of possible daffodil blooms! In the foothills and at elevations higher, daffodils bloom later – the higher the later!

Where can you learn about the blooms from a particular daffodil bulb before purchasing it? The American Daffodil Society has a no cost “encyclopedia” of daffodils at https://daffodilusa.org. Each bulb name has a description and its blooms shown in photographs! The normal time of bloom for the bulb is also listed. You need to jostle these dates somewhat. They are written from and for where the bulb is popularly grown – commonly the eastern USA states or Europe which are nearly two months later than our climate. For us “Early Season” here implies late February; “Mid-Season” means late March, and “Late Season” implies April. (In my home in Oakley, Late Season bulbs live only for the year planted – they are “cooked” by a splash of heat in early April!)

How can I select daffodils that will continue to grow in the future years?

In the past, garden centers and plant nurseries provided a decent number of different daffodil cultivars to select from. Even so, there was severe problem. The bulbs, grown in Holland, were selected for the entire USA – not for Northern California. They were for Mid-Season or Late Season growth – ignoring our need for Early Season growth.

Knowledgeable gardeners know there are catalogs of several specialist daffodil breeders from which to survey and purchase bulbs. The American Daffodil Society maintains a list of breeders from USA (7) and from England (9), Northern Ireland (2), Australia (6), and New Zealand (13). Many of the original USA classic breeders (eg, Mitsch, Evans, Pannill) have passed away. The ADS List does not guarantee satisfactory growth of bulbs purchased!

It’s to your advantage to use the ADS List to become familiar with daffodils in a catalog. The ADS List (DaffSeek) is on its website: https://daffodilusa.org. Once on the website, click on ‘Growing Daffodils’, then on ‘Bulb Sources’, and finally on ‘Specialty Bulb Growers’. Each grower is listed. The cultivars they sell are in their catalog; open the catalog, choose any bulb name, click on it and you’ll see the DaffSeek data for it. Photos of its blooms are there.

As of 10 February 2020, Oakwood Daffodils is the only breeder yet listing its varieties for sale in 2020. Some are Oakwood registrations; other varieties have been imported and naturalized in Niles (a final listing under Oakwood Daffodils [p.18] shows the ten cultivars I’m offering for sale in 2020). Other USA growers will also soon be placing their 2020 catalogs. Overseas growers will also place their lists. Many overseas sellers will have listings of cultivars they have registered. Part of the fun is reading all the catalogs – and perhaps even choosing to buy a few! Overseas purchases do require the addition of shipping fees.

Reprinted with permission by creator Bob Spotts, Northern California Daffodil Society

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