With the winter we have experienced this year, it seems that spring may never arrive. Good news! Winter's days are numbered--literally--and spring is just around the corner.
One of the first true signs of spring in my garden and in the fence rows and pastures along the country roads where I live is the flowering of Narcissus pseudonarcissus, the bright yellow daffodil that has naturalized itself on old homesteads and farms all over the South. I can't think of anything more cheerful than its bright yellow flowers that appear in late February and early March, brightening up the landscape during winter's last drab and dreary days.
These "wild" daffodils are soon joined by other garden varieties whose flowers continue opening throughout March and into early and mid-April. In a good year, the daffodil season will start in late February in my garden and last for nearly two months, with the very latest varieties finishing up in mid-April.
Some of my favorite narcissus, or daffodils, are the species and wild forms that have been grown for many generations throughout the South and include the following:
Narcissus 'Von Sion', also known as "butter and eggs".
Narcissus poeticus var. ornatus, the "Pheasant's Eye" narcissus, is one of the very last narcissus, or daffodils, to flower. Often, it is still blooming near the beginning of May! Just remember that the later they flower, the later into the season their foliage will remain standing in the garden. It is important to leave the foliage of ALL of your daffodils standing for at least 6 weeks AFTER they finish flowering to give them enough time to store energy to flower again the following year. Cutting or mowing them down sooner may affect the quantity and quality of blooms next season and repeated early cutting over a period of years will eventually starve the bulbs out entirely!
Helleborus x hybridus 'Tutu'
With the exceptionally cold weather that we have experienced in Tennessee this winter and with little to no snow cover to protect plants from the single digit temperatures, I was elated when I saw new growth and even a few buds on the hellebores (aka Lenten rose) pushing through the ground this week as the weather moderated just a little. Winter is far from over, but I found a glimmer of hope in the fact that maybe the plants aren't quite as bad off as I thought they might be. In another week or so, I'll carefully trim last year's brown, freeze-dried leaves from the plants as flower buds and new growth begin to emerge, but for now, the dead leaves are still offering a little protection to the new growth that is just emerging.
I have been experimenting with hellebores, or Lenten roses, for nearly 20 years and I am especially fond of some of the new cultivars with flowers in clean, clear colors and in single, semi-double and fully double forms. Hellebores are happiest in part to full shade, in rich, well-amended soil. They need good drainage, especially in winter. Once they're established, they are quite drought tolerant and if you have a deer problem, they'll quickly become one of your favorite shade garden plants, since the deer won't touch them. Here are a few current favorites.
Helleborus x hybridus 'Golden Lotus'
Helleborus niger 'Double Fantasy'
Helleborus x 'Winter Moonbeam'
Helleborus x hybridus 'Red Lady'
These are but a few favorites. There are many others. I hope this sparks a little interest and sends you on a search for these tough, forgiving, easy-to-grow and exceptionally beautiful plants.
One of the things you will see me post about here from time to time will be opportunities to join me as I lead garden tours to a variety of destinations around the world. Since we have a deadline coming up very soon, I thought I would extend my first invitation to join me on a one-of-a-kind trip to England from June 18-27, 2014. This itinerary includes visits to some of England's most famous gardens and other historic destinations including the Chatsworth Estate, Hever Castle (the childhood home of Anne Boleyn) and Leeds Castle, as well as the world-famous gardens of Sissinghurst, Barnsley House (the garden of the late Rosemary Verey), Great Dixter (the garden and home of the late Christopher Lloyd) and many others.
The deadline for reservations is February 1, 2014. You can find the full itinerary at my website, here: http://www.troybmarden.com/travel.html or by emailing me at email@example.com
I hope that some of you will consider joining me on this very special trip!