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It’s time to buy daffodils, and while it may look like I have enough of this splendid, easy to grow bulb, I don’t think I’ll ever have enough.  Never. 

Daffodils shine in my deciduous NC woods.  They look beautiful in vases and add fragrance to the house.

And Daffodils come back year after year in larger, carefree clumps– if you buy the right ones for gardening in the South.

Here are some of my favorites:

February Gold:  If I could only grow one daffodil, this would be the one.  It has bloomed as early as February 2nd here and the flowers last for weeks and weeks.  (Great for putting in little vases for Valentines Day gifts.)

Ice Follies:  Stunning bi-colored flowers that usually appear by my niece’s birthday, March 6. Larger than Feb. Gold but more easily knocked over by  hard rains, snows, freezes.  At the worst, the stems will bend and I cut armfuls of flowers for the house.

Carlton:  Another large cup daffodil like Ice follies, it’s pure yellow, very sturdy, beautiful, and popular.  Another must have.

Geranium:  Multi-booms per stem, this is the most fragrant daffodil I grow.  Love it!

Hawera:  My latest daffodil, blooming in early April.  Small and charming and a reliable late bloomer for the South (which is hard to find.)

My favorite source is Terra Ceia Farms in Eastern NC.  They sell great bulbs with bulk pricing to greedy gardeners like me.

Bret and Becky’s is another excellent Southern daffodil grower and between the two, I can find anything I want.

Last time I checked, both have real people who answer the phone and give helpful advice, another big plus for me.

Two more tips for daffodil growing:

Order sooner, rather than later.  I write: Order Bulbs!!! on my October Calendar and try to get it done by Halloween or at least mid November before the best varieties sell out.

And finally, try something new every year.  Quail and Jetfire are the newbies  at our house for 2011.   But I was torn.  So many splendid daffodils, so little time…

Any suggestions? Please share your favorites.


February Gold Daffodil looks great in the woods

You can spend a lot of money buying spring-flowering bulbs–a lot of money.  Just think about the annual  tulip show at Duke Gardens, or Biltmore’s Festival of Flowers–and imagine what all those bulbs cost.   

But I am not one of American’s wealthiest, so I start out with a budget–

Here’s how a spent my 100 dollar bulb budget this year:

1) I focused, deciding where my bulbs and my money would go.  Setting priorities is hard, and it’s taken a lot of practice, but bulbs are small.  You need a large number to make an impact.   (I’m on a budget, remember?  Amazing how those lovely catalogs make it so easy to forget)

2) Since I’m focusing my resources in my new woods beds, I picked bulbs I knew would do well in those conditions.  I also tried to visualize my new purchases in the rougher ground under trees and shrubs and pick things that would bloom at different times in the Spring and extend the season of interest. 

3) Where you buy your bulbs matters.  I steer clear of impulse buys in big box stores and order from  reputable bulb companies.    Terra Ceia in Pantego Nc is a favorite, and where I placed this year’s order.  Their quality is high–their prices are low and shipping is reasonable–just 12.50 total. 

Love the Spanish Bluebell in my Tar Heel woods

4) I picked just 3 varieties.  Yes, it was hard.  But think about the woods, picture them in your mind.  Great swaths of plants, right?  Not two of these, 5 of that.  I planned for woodsy clumps  and bought:

  • 50 FEBRUARY GOLD DAFFODIL–The second daffodil to bloom in my woods and very welcome every year.  I love it.  It likes my Southern Garden and seems to fit in the woods–not fussy or frilly.
  • 50 SPANISH BLUEBELLS–(Hyacinthoides hispanica ) Another plant that looks like it belongs in the woods.  Makes beautiful blue clumps.  Spreads.  Great in a small vase.
  • 50 TREVITHIAN DAFFODIL.  An old fashioned Jonquil, it’s a clear lemon yellow with a  wonderful fragrance.  I have a small clump out front and I’ve always wanted more.  So while I may not be getting EVERYthing I want this year, I’m an getting something I’ve always wanted. 

    Simple and woodsy with great fragrance--

It’s  still more than a month until  blub planting time, but this is the best  time to order (before the popular varieties  run out).  So Blog-partner Melissa and I made a pact–order our  spring bulbs today or at least this weekend. 

We’ll keep you posted–literally.

March 09--daffodils in the snow

I like to buy local when ever possible , but for the best selection and price, I always order my bulbs from companies that specialize.   I have three favorites and  the top one is almost local–

Terra Ceia farms is in Pantego NC (East of Greenville).  Their selection is not the largest–but their bulbs are huge, in great condition–not bruised or soft.  Their prices are great and so is their customer service.  If you have a question, or problem, call.  A real person answers the phone.

John Scheepers in Bantam Connecticut–Great catalog, 87 pages of full color pictures makes for wonderful browsing.  Only problem is–you’ll want to try everything.  But if I’m looking for a certain bulb or want to try something new, Scheepers is where I shop.

Van Engelen is the wholesale arm of Scheepers.

fewer varieties but if you buy in bulk, the prices are better.  There’s a 50 dollar minimum, which make a nice segue into my next little list–

Tips for buying bulbs

1) Set a budget.  Everything looks so appealing and fresh,  it’s really, really easy to get out of control.  And once that budget is set, don’t spread it two thinly.  Bulbs are small.  You need to grow big patches.  So if you only want to spend 50 bucks, buy one of two varieties instead of 5.  You’ll be happier in the long run. 

2) Plan where you’re going to plant you bulbs before you order them.  Make a short wish list, then walk around the yard and figure out where your  bulbs can go.  I like to take winter photos of bare spots that can use bulbs, them reference them in the fall.    

3) Pick varieties that do well in the South and will come back year after year.    That’s another reason the local company tops my list of suppliers.  They are not going to sell me something that isn’t really happy here.  And there are lots of bulbs that don’t come back it my garden.   I’ve given up on:  Snow drops, big globe  Allium, double daffodils, Darwin and triumph tulips. 

Here’s what I grown instead.

Daffodils–My first is Rijnveld’s Early Sensation.  My last Hawera.  I grow lots of other varieties in between like February Gold, Ice follies, Actaea and Geranium. 

January 25, 2010--I always take a portrait of the season's first daffodil. This is Rijnveld's Early Sensation

Spanish Hyacinth–If you have woods, fill them with Hyacinthoides hispanica or the Spanish bluebell.  They are stunning, great cut flowers and multiply. 

Summer Snowflake or Leucojum.  Lovely arching stems.  White and green bell flowers.  I plant them in patches at the base of trees and never have enough. 

Species tulips.  These are the only truly perennial tulips in the South.  Small and dainty.  Great in a vase. 

Ipheion or Star flower.  Blooming blue carpets in March.  Seeds and spreads. 

The list could go on…and on.  There are many more bulbs that will work in the South–It’s just that I’m on a budget.  So please, share your bulb orders with us.  Let us know what works at your house.   I always want to try something new. 

A note about buying bulbs locally:  Dickenson’s in Chapel Hill, and Stone Brothers and Byrd in Durham have the best selection if you want to buy in a store. I also like the Southern States in Carrboro. I would stay away from the big box stores.  Their  bulbs tend to be small.  Bigger bulbs make bigger flowers.  Bigger flowers make happier gardeners.

March 2010, Spanish bluebells and lenten rose--

Everyone loves something new in the garden—even our crazy puppy Tralee.  She’s checking out the spider flower blooms, photographed here on the 2nd day of September.   They make a splendid show adding great red color along the path in my green woods. 

 I like the fact that Lycoris radiata blubs don’t need their own bed.  They rise out of other plants, bloom their heads off and go away.   I’ll admit it all happens rather quickly.  Still, I wouldn’t be without this shade loving gem that brings some spark to the September garden. 

The new Terra Ceia Farms Catalog arrived last week and they are offering 15 radiata bulbs for $24.60—a bargain in my book and just the right number to make an impact. 

The hardy cyclamen has a much longer season of interest in my Apex woods—often sending up a few blooms on the hottest, driest days of August.  But September is really this plants’ season—bringing nice bunches of delicate pink flowers.   Cyclamen hederifolium flourishes in the hard, parched ground at the base of oak trees where nothing else will grow.  After flowers, fresh-looking, green leaves appear and hang around all winter.  Then the plants go dormant before blooming again next summer and fall. 

Don’t confuse Cyclamen herderifolium with the florist cyclamen—a greenhouse plant that always dies in my dinning room window.   Hardy cyclamens are anything but fussy.  Just plant and leave them alone. 

Across the backyard from the cyclamen, the first of my Japanese anemones just started to bloom. These late-flowering perennials enjoy a very un-cyclamen like environment– soft soil, moisture and part shade.   I grow them near the hydrangeas on the North side of the garage. 

Can’t find the tag on the double variety photographed above, but I remember the word robustus in the Latin name.  It is robust and I have shared the plant again and again. 

My favorite anemone will bloom later this month.  September Charm is a light pink single variety that looks great in the beds and a vase.    It’s in bud now.  I’ll post a photo when this lovely plant blooms.   Meantime— it’s something else to anticipate.   Change in the garden is good.

And speaking of change—Blog partner Melissa is looking forward to the end of a huge work project.  She’s on the west coast for the launch that has dominated her life almost 24/7 recently.  (Don’t you just hate it when work gets in the way?)

 Melissa promises to be back home and blogging again soon with renewed vigor.   Nothing like a trip out West to make her miss her Raleigh garden and her Southern Roots.    

I miss her too.  Maybe a group Weed-A-Thon when she returns.

The Oxblood lilies always surprise me–  Just when I think the garden holds nothing new, they pop out of some pretty rough ground looking fresh and colorful.    

The great Elizabeth Lawrence introduced me to this plant in her book, A Southern Garden.  If you want to garden in the South, find a copy of this classic, first printed in 1942.  No glossy pictures, but the best info about what will grow here, what and when to plant it. 

Modern author and bulb expert, Scott Ogden, likes Oxblood lily too. “No other Southern bulb can match the fierce vigor, tenacity and adaptability of the Oxblood lily,” he says in handy reference book, Garden Bulbs for the South. 

I agree.  In my garden they bloom  without any care or extra water at the base of a giant Lonicera fragratissima which often shades them heavily, until I spot the red flowers  and cut the branches back. 

Oxblood Lilies not only survive in this difficult spot–they multiply. 

It’s one of those plants with some name confusion.  Look for Rhodopbiala bifida or the older latin name, Hippeastrum advenum.  Better yet,  just call it Oxblood Lily. 

Another late summer bulb that I love goes by the colorful common name, Pink Naked Ladies .  When  Amaryllis belladonna  jumped out of the front ferns on a 98 degree day earlier this month, I felt like an absolute genius. 

And because good things come in threes, here’s a look at my all time favorite late bulb–the Red Spider Lily.  Hymenocallis is an old Southern plant that makes lovely drifts along the woods paths every September. 

It took me years to get enough of these bulbs to make an impact.  And I’m really glad I kept at it.  They give me color at a time and place where nothing else blooms. 

Bret and Becky’s Bulbs is a great source for these bulbs (if you order in the spring).      A family owned Virginia company, I really like giving them my business.  Once I called with a daffodil question and Bret answered the phone.  Can’t beat that kind of service. 

Terra Ceia in Pango, NC  often stocks spider lilies.  I’ve had really good luck buying from them, too. Put this plant on your list for spring. 

And yes, daffodils are wonderful–but they are anticipated, even anxiously awaited at my house.  Late bulbs just jump out of the ground and surprise.  You should grow them.

A long-time gardener and a passionate beginner share the dirt on their NC gardens-

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