Sunday, March 10, 2013


A few years ago the Head Gardener and I visited our son in Dunedin at about this time of the year.  During the time we were in the south we ventured up to the Duntroon/Earthquakes area to look at some remarkable fossils and Maori cave art.  The landscape along the various valleys of North Otago was amazing, but there was a surreal quality to much of it, caused by the outbreak of intensive dairy farming in selected areas.  The region is largely very dry, with porous limestone and relatively recent  gravels forming much of the soil, and by the end of the warm summer most of the paddocks are usually mouse coloured.  But scattered among these burnt paddocks were outcrops of outrageously green fields, where the combination of irrigation and fertiliser betrayed the presence of dairying.
This year our garden looks a bit like that – the lawn have died off, except for a small margin of error at the edges where they receive some spill over from watering the gardens, and the only green is in the garden beds.
I am a bit worried about how dry even some of the flower beds are though, as I want to have a bit of a daffodil blitz this year.  Although I am a great iris lover I am also very taken with daffodils, and have a large number of different types growing in the garden and in pots, and this year I want to expand that number a lot – even aiming for a host of golden daffodils perhaps.
If good strong-growing yellow daffodils are what you are looking for there are a couple of older varieties you should keep an eye out for, ‘Malvern City’ and ‘Carlton’.  Both are gold on gold forms – they have both golden petals and golden cups – and are both very reliable flowering forms that are long lasting.  ‘Malvern City’ is very early in the season, and is quite tall, growing to about 50cm at full height.  ‘Carlton’ is a little later and is a bit chunkier, flowering at 40cm, but is perhaps a little hardier.  They will both do very well as cut flowers.
If you are looking for more contrast you could try one of the varieties with white petals and golden cups, as the colour contrast makes them stand pout very well in the garden.  For early in the season you should look out for ‘Moneymaker’, which has cream petals and a large golden cup and always looks bright in the garden.  The petals are probably a little misshapen if you are trying to win medals at the local flower show, but for garden value it is great.
I have grown ‘Ice Follies’ for a few years now – a lovely white daffodil with white petals and cream cups.  I have found it to be a reliable flowering form, growing about 35 cm high and very hardy in the wind and rain.  If you wanted more colour from this kind of form you should try ‘Orange Ice Follies’, which despite its name is not really orange-cupped but rather deep gold toned.
Small flowered double daffodils are, of course, very popular, none more so than the exquisitely scented ‘Erlicheer’, which can even be in flower as early as May in some gardens.  To be brutally honest it is no great shakes to look at, but it more than makes up for its lack of elegance with the powerful scent it carries.  At the opposite end of the season,  ‘Cheerfuless’ provides much the same scent on a slightly tidier flower.  ‘Golden Cheerfulness’ is even better I think, although the colour is a little light to really be called golden – at times it is almost chartreuse, but this moderately-sized daffodil is one of my favourites.
The Head Gardener is a great fan of the pink-cupped daffodils, and we grow a few of them.  My favourite among these is probably ‘Accent’, even though it is not the pinkest (certainly not the luscious pink you find in tall bearded irises).  The cups are more properly called salmon pink, or perhaps even a peachy orange, but this plant is just so reliable and the flowers hold their colour so well that I would not be without this in my large border.

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