April 1, 2010

The Works

First of the month, time to show you a Gardening Oops.  Visit Joene's Garden for more.  Here's mine.

This is a gardening oops, and it's about daffodils.  How, you are asking, can anyone have an oops with daffodils?  How can anyone NOT grow them?  They are easy, the deer won't eat them, the voles leave them alone, and they happily naturalize on their own into big sweeps and drifts of sunny yellow color.
Perfect for a neophyte gardener.  Perfect for the big flat space beyond our yard that turns into a weedy meadow in summer, but looks so empty and bare in April.  Doesn't this space cry out for a field of daffodils?  This is where I wanted a sea of yellow and white:
So I ordered The Works from Whiteflower Farm.  100 bulbs!  The Whole Works.  Soon to be three or four hundred in a few years after spreading.  I dug 100 bulb holes singly, over several bitterly cold afternoons in November.  My knees hurt and my fingers ached, but I knew it would be worth it.

Here's a picture of the two that came up the following spring... the only two.  I got 2 daffodils out of 100 bulbs.  Over subsequent springs, my two have multiplied into five little daffodils nodding in the mud.
There's the first clue to what went wrong: mud.  The flat open space is actually in a slight depression between the steep hillside and our yard, and the drainage is very slow from left to right.  When I walk in that area it's always wet, squishy and mucky.  In winter and spring there are standing puddles.  In summer and fall, it dries into hardpack.

I doomed my daffodils, the Whole Damn Works, to a soggy, miserable death by rotting.

I learned two things from this oops: first, plants are not furniture.  You can't decorate with them by placing the colors and shapes you want in the spots you'd like.  You have to consider that they are living things with their own needs.  I wanted masses of daffodils in that space, I wanted them there even though it was muddy and wet.  The daffodils did not want to be there, though, and they let me know it.  We can't grow in this place, they said, and then they proved it.

My wanting them to grow there was not enough.  They had to want to grow there themselves.

Second thing I learned: I had always discounted "well drained soil" when reading about plants' needs, because ALL plants want well drained soil.  Every description of every plant I had ever read said "well drained soil".  I thought the term meant "plant in dirt".  Well of course.

Because the term was so ubiquitous, I thought it was meaningless.  Hah.  Once again the daffodils proved smarter than I thought.  They read the literature, and they knew.  No mud.  No puddles.

So now, after I admire my five standing narcissus blooms, I drive out to Litchfield, Conn. in April to see the daffodils at Laurel Ridge Foundation:
Photo from an old website about the Laurel Ridge Foundation

Or I drive to Hubbard Park in Meriden, Conn. to see the real works:
Notice how the masses of daffodils thriving in the parks are planted on gentle slopes?  Tells you something.

10 comments:

  1. Such a shame, they would have looked fabulous there, I would have been seeing this display in all the gardening mags, bus trip would have pulled up....oh well, there is always plastic, lol.

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  2. Oh, but those two are such dear little survivors! Surely they are worthy of having their offspring marketed as a new puddle loving strain?
    I loved the interpretation of 'well drained' as meaning 'plant in the dirt' - which would be my interpretation too!

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  3. I'm sorry for your daffy plight, Laurrie, but it does make a perfect GOOPs. I bought The Works many years ago and would advise trying them again ... but I'm sure you know that they are really nice bulbs. Maybe a few swamp azaleas or other wet-feet plants would make portions of your slope a bit more hospitable?

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  4. Laurrie, you are a brave woman to admit to your Goops. As a neophyte gardener, I stumble from one mistake to the next. That's why I hope to learn *something* from other's mistakes. Thank you! ;-)

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  5. Oh, Laurrie, I am so sorry about your daffodils. I feel your pain! I am sure there are some beautiful plants that like soggy soil which would be great there. I have lost my share of plants, too, for planting them in the wrong place. We learn.

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  6. Deborah, I did kind of expect to have a display that would attract tour buses.. such folly!

    gippslandgardener, I could make a fortune if I could market mud loving daffodils! I just might try with those two brave survivors : )

    Joene: I do have some other spots that will take daffodils, just not a big empty field setting that could handle The Works' 100 bulbs unfortunately.

    Garden Ms. S thank goodness there are other neophyte gardeners out there so I don't feel so inept. It's good to have company.

    Deborah, I'm researching soggy-loving plants, I do hope to find something that will do well there besides the invasive stuff that has taken over already.

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  7. There are some daffs that can stand wet conditions. Ones in the jonquil class can and they are hardy to zone 4. You might want to contact Brent and Becky's Bulbs and ask them.

    Sorry, I had to laugh when you wrote about the 5 daffs nodding in the mud -- although I don't think it's funny that you got so little reward for your efforts!

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  8. How 'bout a few graceful weeping willows? They'd have plenty of space to stretch out, and they love water.

    I have a bunch of daffs in my front yard, but you know what? You're right. They're on a slope.

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  9. Sweet bay, I didn't know there were daffodils for wet conditions! I'll check it out.

    The sorry gardener, I already have blueberries in my yard ... wouldn't be without them!

    Connecticut Blogger, weeping willows actually are all over the wild areas surrounding the house, but not in that open flat area. Obviously they do well in our muddy area!

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