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With St David’s Day (Saturday 1 March 2014) comes the traditional celebration of daffodils, a welcome sight after weeks of grey skies, torrential rain and flooding sweeping across much of the country.
Many of the 200 gardens that we care for will be bursting into colour throughout March and April with swathes of bulbs planted both in formal garden and woodland areas.
Head of Gardens, Mike Calnan said: 'Arriving fast on the heels of snowdrops, daffodils are often the first sign of spring that people watch for. This year more than ever they are a welcome sight after so many weeks of bad weather. Daffodils are an important part of our gardening displays. The daffodil sometimes gets overlooked as we see them for a relatively short time during the year, yet, when they are in full flower they can brighten any garden or container; are easy to look after and relatively inexpensive to plant.
'One of the best things about them is that once planted, they will keep on flowering for many years and are a happy signal of the arrival of spring.'
From early blooms to Easter parades
David Bouch is the head gardener at Cotehele in Cornwall where 250 varieties of daffodils and narcissi flower each year. He said: 'Different varieties of daffodils flower at different times, so although we are seeing some earlier blooms break through now, the best of the colour is likely to be from mid-March through to the end of April.
'Daffodils are great for ensuring a good, lengthy spell of colour which in some gardens can start as early as mid-Feb, and continue through to the end of April, depending on the variety.
'Many of our bulbs are local varieties to include the old Tamar daffs. Their key traits are subtler colours such as creams with coral trumpets and lighter yellows which work particularly well in the landscape and against the buildings, making Cotehele a special place to visit at this time of year.'
Growing your own daffodils
Looking after daffodils in your own garden is easy. David continues: 'It’s not very often you hear a gardener say this, but try not to be too tidy. It’s really important not to cut back the leaves as they ‘charge’ the bulb with energy to create your flower display for next year. For a naturalised effect, scatter a bucket of bulbs by hand (any time between September and November is ok), and plant them where they land.
'For me, a lot about gardening is planning, now is the time to get outside, look at the range and type of daffodils you already have in your garden and plan where you want to plant a different variety, different colour, or add to a display for next spring – so you know where to plant new bulbs in the autumn.'
The best daffodil displays
Wales: Erddig, Wrexham and Bodnant, Conwy
South East: Nymans, West Sussex and Cliveden, Buckinghamshire
Northern Ireland: Rowallene, County Down
South West: Saltram, Devon and Trelissick, Cornwall
North East: Beningbrough Hall, North Yorkshire; Gibside, Tyne & Wear; Seaton Delaval Hall, Northumberland and Wallington, Northumberland
North West – Dora’s field in Grasmere, Cumbria and Dunham Massey, Cheshire
Midlands - Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire and The Weir, Herefordshire
East – Blickling Estate, Norfolk and Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire
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