Daffodils are catching.
That’s what landscape architects say about these cheerful spring blooms. If you’ve had time to open any of the spring catalogs cascading into your mail box, you’ll see plenty of daffodils for beds and borders.
But daffodils are spreading beyond the garden. You’ll see them marching along driveways, clustered around mailbox posts, rights-of-way and throughout neighborhoods.
The hottest trend is for entire towns to plant roadside daffodils. In one New York hamlet, South Salem, garden club members and volunteers have planted more than 38,000 daffodils along area roadsides in the last 11 years. Local homeowners have planted an additional 38,000 daffodils in visible areas on their own properties.
In spring, people jump in their cars and take the Golden Roads Daffodils tour, gawking at blooms in the same way people view fall colors and Christmas displays.
The South Salem garden club was inspired by roadside daffodils in Pound Ridge, N.Y., and decided to plant some too. “It was like spontaneous combustion,” says founder and chair of Golden Roads Daffodils George Scott.
Collections were purchased from Colorblends Wholesale Flowerbulbs.
Scott shares these tips, which can easily be adapted to neighborhood planting projects.
1. Daffodils like sun and well-drained soil. No standing water. Where conditions are right, daffodils can multiply or naturalize and bloom year after year.
2. Plant roadside daffodils in the grass. Daffodils in grass are easy. They bloom before the grass starts growing, then die back and go dormant. After bloom, you just mow them down — but not too soon. Daffodil foliage must die back naturally for eight or more weeks after bloom so bulbs can recharge to bloom the following spring.
We put out homemade signs reading “Do Not Mow Until June 15” to remind town maintenance crews.
3. Buy top quality. A bloom display that lasts for four to six weeks each spring requires a blend of different types of daffodils that bloom at different times, early to late.
4. Choose sites with impact. We’re looking for drive-by gardening experiences. Plant both sides of the road for an allée of flowers. Slopes are always dramatic. Roadways, median strips, public schools and even police headquarters are all candidates for a daffodil display.
5. Spreadsheets help. Use a spreadsheet to list everything that needs to be done during the year, including which committee member does what.
6. Estimate costs and raise funds. In our early years, we staged a variety of fund-raising events. After five years, we realized that events are incredibly labor-intensive and daffodil planting projects are actually not hugely expensive. Now we rely mainly on donations and stage one fund-raising event each year — selling daffodil bulbs in bags of 50 and 100 (and recruiting new volunteers).
7. Line up volunteers early. Schedule your planting event for the same Saturday morning each year, if you can. We usually plant in the last weekend in October, so we start sending e-blasts out in mid August. Cast the net widely. Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts are always eager to help. So are many school groups.
8. Grids make everything easier. Before planting day, block out the planting site in grids to make work assignments clear. We lay out multiple grids of about 40 to 45 square feet each, which we’ve found is a good size for planting 100 bulbs. For continuity, group safety and to avoid winter road salt, we plant at least three feet from the roadway.
9. Make planting day organized and fun. All planting teams are assigned to a grid, with supervision. Our teams plant 4,000 bulbs in three hours: 9 a.m. to noon, working in two 90-minute shifts. There’s now a clean-up shift, too: noon to 1:30 pm. We serve coffee, doughnuts and other refreshments.
10. Plant densely. In most cases, people will be viewing these plantings while driving by at 30 mph or more. The denser the planting, the higher the impact: plant bulbs four inches apart. A volunteer makes a supply of 6-inch-long sticks for depth guides, also marked with the desired space between bulbs.
When planting in grass, volunteers are instructed to dig down to the approximate depth and pull back a flap of sod. They can do this either one hole at a time or “hinge” back the grass in a long line. Others come along and plant the bulbs. Then we replace the sod and press it down. Finally, we spread grass seed on the planted areas. Our goal is to leave the area looking like we’d never been there — until spring that is!