You’re never too old to learn

Bulbs. I thought I understood them. Unlike seeds, you can’t keep bulbs for several years without planting them. It just doesn’t work like that. A daffodil will start growing, as early as July, producing roots, though if lifted they won’t start growing until later. You should plant them by November or they don’t make enough root growth before spring to grow properly. I have planted as late as early January but it is rather cruel. The plants don’t develop proper stems and they don’t look very attractive when flowering but they eventually recover in subsequent years. But you can’t leave them in the shed for a year and expect them to grow.

A good many years ago I planted summer-flowering daffodils but these were simply bulbs grown in South Africa and so six months out of sync. After their initial flowering they changed back to their usual growth cycle. It is strange that true South African bulbs stick rigidly to their winter-growth cycle – if they are winter growers (not all are) so you sow freesias in August and they grow in winter and flower in spring. I did just that last year and my first flowers will soon open. Then they will die down, I will repot in August and repeat. You can buy freesia corms for spring planting but these have been heat treated and won’t bloom a second year in summer.

This is all a preamble to something very odd. In the photo above you can see my new prunus avenue. Avenue is a bit presumptuous for seven trees but I have not planted seven of any trees if you don’t count the hedges so it is as close to an avenue as I will have. They are Prunus padus ‘Colorata’ a form of the wild bird cherry with purple-flushed young foliage and clusters of fragrant pink flowers. The small black fruits are loved by birds, hence the common name. You will need good eyes but to the right, along the hedge, some daffodils are poking through.

This is hardly a momentous event but it has me very confused. They are ‘Queen Beatrix’ and they were planted, all 50 of them, in autumn 2020. They were planted in about October, certainly not later, along with all the daffs that I bought. All grew, and flowered well, last spring and they are doing the same this year – Except for ‘Queen Beatrix’. Last spring not one came up. I waited and not a single leaf appeared. I was disappointed and could not understand why they all failed. I put it down to poor drainage because this area is a bit wet in winter, though not really much worse than some other areas. I thought that was the last I had seen of them.

But this spring I saw leaves popping up. Not just a single, straggly leaf I would expect if the bulbs had rotted or if they had been ravaged by narcissus fly (which I was not blaming) but healthy shucks of foliage. I cannot see buds yet but it seems that all the bulbs are growing – after a year when they seemingly did nothing. Surely this can’t happen. I know that some plants can rest a year, many terrestrial orchids for example, but not daffodils and certainly not every one of a batch of 50!

It makes me appreciate ‘Tête-à-tête’ more than ever. I had to plant up a pot of bulbs for a magazine shoot. The following week next door’s dog got in the garden and decided to empty the pot and I hurriedly replanted them and with no other attention they do this – bless them.

‘Tête-à-tête’ may be cheap and common but it makes me happy.

,

5 Comments on “You’re never too old to learn”

  1. Paddy Tobin
    February 26, 2022 at 9:34 am #

    I put a good number of Pheasant Eye narcissus in grass and have had a no-show year so hope they do a resurrection similar to yours above! I was really disappointed and annoyed that they didn’t grow as they were expensive.

    • thebikinggardener
      February 26, 2022 at 9:43 am #

      Pheasant eye are always thin, miserable-looking bulbs and they can be slow to get going. It is why I would not use them in pots – the don’t do well the first year. I hope yours settle down and do well because they are so lovely. My Queen Beatrix, being a modern daff had big solid bulbs – I planted some twenty varieties from the same nursery and all the rest were perfect hence my confusion.

      • Paddy Tobin
        February 26, 2022 at 9:49 am #

        I will live in hope!

      • Paddy Tobin
        February 26, 2022 at 9:49 am #

        As you commented, ‘Tete-a-Tete’ is up and in flower as are the first ‘Van Sion’ … in the grass.

        • thebikinggardener
          February 26, 2022 at 10:01 am #

          ‘Van Sion’ is one I remember from my childhood and I planted some and they are in bud, a week away from opening and I look forward to their flowers.

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