Daffodils in bloom

In the Garden
Ralph Purkhiser, Purdue University Master Gardener

     Walks in the garden have been exciting this week.  The early daffodils are putting on a great show.  My whole front yard is ablaze in yellow, as early daffodils of various sizes are at peak bloom.  At Sandhill Gardens, I have nearly 40 different varieties of daffodils, with cultivars that bloom early, mid-season and late-season.  Over the next several weeks, daffodils will bloom in various colors, including white, pink, red, orange and peach.  There will be large and small blooms, singles and doubles and various hybrids with unusual blooms.
     Recently, I read an article lamenting that daffodils do not supply the nectar needed by the insects that are awakening at this time.  That article urged gardeners to plant native flowers.  I agree that native plants are necessary to sustain native communities, but I still believe that the landscape may contain non-native plants, as long as they are not invasive.  Invasive plants are those which grow out of control, often crowding out native communities
     While daffodils do spread, and you may, indeed, find them growing in the wild, most of those are the progeny of bulbs planted by pioneers around old homesteads.  Even there, plenty of natives still manage to blend in.  Daffodils are ephemeral, and the foliage will die down a few weeks after they bloom.  Since the bulbs are relatively deep in the ground, many native plants will co=exist.  Annual plant seeds may be grown right over the top of the daffodils, as most of the daffodils will have died down by the time annual seeds begin to germinate.
     With the recent unseasonably warm weather, new blooms join the daffodils almost every day.  On Saturday, I noticed that some pulmonaria has put on growth and actually has a few blooms.  Commonly known as lungwort, pulmonaria has spotted, fuzzy leaves.  The flowers change colors in different stages, so it is not unusual to see plants with purple, pink and white flowers at the same time.  Pulmonaria is not exactly showy, but is one of those plants that help to brighten shady areas.  It combines well with hostas, hellebores and other shade plants.  The “Raspberry Splash” cultivar is a particularly beautiful plant, and is usually available at local nurseries.
     The warm weather has also brought out some insects.  I actually saw a butterfly in the garden on Saturday.  We know that the weather in Indiana is subject to change at any time, especially this time of the year, and winter may be back.  The return on cold weather could disrupt the life cycles of some insects and there could be some damage to plants that have budded out.  Of special concern, are the buds on fruit and nut trees.  Small plants may be covered with fabric to shield them from a cold blast, but there is not much that can be done to save tree blooms.  Such is the nature of gardening in the Ohio Valley.
     Of course, as we wait for the garden season to get going, we may satisfy our gardening urges by attending the Indiana Flower and Patio Show at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.  This year’s show runs March 11-19.  There will be many demonstrations and all sorts of garden-related items for sale.  It is a fun way to spend a late winter day.



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