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Naturalizing Daffodils

One of the great things about daffodils is that they multiply from year to year, but not in an invasive way. You'll notice that many people will plant daffodils as a border plant and this is fine, but it really doesn't look natural.

Probably nothing in the gardening world is more foolproof and more rewarding than "naturalizing" daffodils. Because unlike most other garden flowers, these fantastic plants are super-easy to plant in fall, they don't care about soil, as long as it's well-drained, and they'll bloom beautifully for you with absolutely no work every spring after you plant them. The one thing to remember is that you won't be able to mow that area until the tops die down. Everything else takes care of itself. In a new or established wildflower meadow, the wildflower plants grow up around the daffodils hiding the fading foliage, so there's no work to do. And if you're planting wildflower seed, what could be easier that to pop in the bulbs when you have the ground already turned?

Select an ideal area for naturalizing daffodils

A process calling naturalizing is nothing more than putting daffodil bulbs in places other than as a border or edging to your garden. If there is some ground at the edge of a woods or an orchard, bulbs can be planted in drifts which will add beauty to the landscape. Some people will even plant naturalized drifts of daffodils in their lawns, but this really isn't an ideal situation. Daffodils need to retain their leaves for about 6 weeks after blooming to store up enough energy in their bulb for next year's bloom. If the bulbs are planted in the lawn, then you can't really mow the grass in those areas until about mid-May.

The area chosen for naturalizing bulbs should have good drainage and receive some sun during the day. At the edge of a woods, early blooming cultivars can be planted as they will receive enough sun to ripen the foliage before the foliage matures and blocks sunlight from the daffodil leaves.

Choose an area where the grass can be left unmowed until foliage has matured. Hillsides are excellent spots to place drifts of bulbs. Bulbs should be planted in drifts of like kinds and like colors. A drift of one cultivar of bright yellow is eye-catching.

A drift of 50-60 bulbs will turn the heads of those who are not daffodil lovers.

Decide on color and quantity

After an area has been chosen for naturalizing, decide what color and how many will the space accommodate and what cultivar will do well in that spot.

Some cultivars do not do well in naturalized settings. Many of the older, tried and tested cultivars will live for at least 30 years in the sod and some as many as 50 and still bring bloom.

If planted properly, bulbs can live and bloom for many years with a minimum of care. When planting bulbs in a natural area to be left undisturbed for years, plant deeply for your type of soil.

When planting daffodils in clay soil, the bulb ought to be planted at least 8" deep. There are several methods of putting the bulbs into soil which has not been cultivated (dug up).

One method is to use a broad spade, cut 2 lengths of the spade wide and a single cut at each end forming a loose rectangle. Dig out the sod or soil inside that rectangle. If the hole isn't deep enough take out some more soil.

Once the soil is removed work up soil in bottom, add a mixture of sand and peat moss, add about a tablespoon of low nitrogen fertilizer, mix well, then place a handful of sand where bulbs are to be placed, set bulbs in place and cover bulbs with soil and replace sod or top soil.

Usually about 5 bulbs can be placed in each area. The fertilizer under the bulbs will keep bulbs growing for years. Another way of planting in the sod needs a strong-armed person who can sink a crowbar 6" - 8" into the ground. Then work the hole by rotating the bar, then drop in sand, peat and fertilizer mix, add a handful of sand and then the bulb. Fill hole with sand. A third method is quite new and a good one for the gardener with money to invest.

There is a new drilling method that allows you to use an electric drill to quickly punch out holes without digging. Many garden stores have an augur that will drill about a 2"-3" wide holes quickly. It does take some strong hands to handle the drill when working in clay soils.

The King Alfred Story

The world's most famous daffodil is the tall, golden, large-cupped one named King Alfred. It was introduced in Holland in 1899, and was an instant success. So King Alfred is now over 100 years old.

Over the years, improved versions of the "King" were developed and given other names which gradually replaced "King Alfred", except in one place--the US. The Dutch Bulb Authorities tell us that gardeners here are so in love with King Alfred that even when improvements were made, the growers in Holland simply applied the old name to their new products. So today, there are several King Alfreds marketed in the US, and some garden centers and nurseries still use just the original name.

We prefer to explain the whole story.

The main one of these improved King Alfreds is actually named Dutch Master, introduced in 1948. As the Dutch say, "it is better and stronger, a more vigorous look-alike. It makes bigger bulbs and throws more flowers than the original King Alfred". The Netherlands Bulb Information Center makes it very clear. If you're looking for King Alfred daffodils, look no further. This is it, with improvements you'll love.