The arrival of the daffodils truly celebrates the passing of winter, writes GINA PARKINSON.

EARLY spring plants abound in gardens and countryside by the end of March, but for many people a sure sign that winter has left is the sight of daffodils.

These popular spring flowers are everywhere, their yellow trumpets nodding near hedgerows, at the edge of woodland and in long sweeps in parks. Their leaves emerge from winter dormancy on the grassy banks leading up to the city walls in York as early as February, but the flowers wait until March or April to appear, depending on the warmth. It is good to see them in full bloom for Easter, but as this moving feast can be any time from the end of March to a month later, it is difficult for the bulbs to time their flowering accurately.

The daffodil or Narcissus family is large, with hundreds of varieties that range in size from tiny to tall. What they all have in common is the bulb from which all daffodils grow, and the make-up of the flower, which consists of a central cup or trumpet surrounded by perianth segments or petals.

A trumpet is narrower than long, a cup broader than long. Depending on the species, the petals may be swept back or double, pointed or round. The trumpet or cup may be frilled or split, shorter than the petals or longer. The colours include the traditional yellow and white, as well as richer oranges and creams and the occasional pink and red.

Daffodil bulbs are planted in August and September and will grow in most garden soils in sun or light shade. They benefit from a lining of coarse sand to sit on in heavy soil and need to be planted deep enough to be covered by soil twice the height of the bulb.

The bulbs can be left undisturbed for a number of years to form a clump, then lifted in July or August and divided once it gets overcrowded. The bulbs should be replanted immediately so they have time to settle and recover before winter.

Daffodils can also be added to the garden in spring, but rather than the dry bulbs planted in Autumn, they are bought already potted up and often in flower. This is more expensive – bulbs are very cheap – but provides an instant hit of spring colour. The short growing Tete-a-Tete is a popular and reliable pot-grown narcissus and looks good with other spring plants like pulmonaria and euphorbia or in spring containers.


Diary date

Flower Power fairs will hold a Spring Specialist Plant fair at Newburgh Priory, Coxwold on Easter Sunday from 11am to 4pm. Admission is £3 adult, accompanied children free and there is plenty of nearby free parking. More details in this column next Saturday.


Open gardens

Thursday, April 2.

In aid of the National Gardens Scheme

Hotham Hall, Hotham, YO43 4UA, 15 miles west of Hull. Established gardens in a parkland setting with a Victorian pond, mixed borders and a lake with a bridge over to an island walk. There is also a children’s play area, garden games, Easter treasure hunt, Easter decoration making and light refreshments. Admission £5 adult, £2.50 child (activities and refreshments included in the price). Open 11am to 3pm.



IT IS a good time to clear the debris around strawberry plants. Our bed still had the straw from last summer, which kept the soil moist and relatively warm; together with dead foliage and weeds enjoying the heat of the straw, the bed had begun to look a mess.

So last Sunday we cleared it all way, trimmed the runners, replanted uprooted plantlets and nipped off all the dead foliage. A sprinkling of slow-release fertiliser finished the job.

The plants in this bed are approaching their third year of fruiting, so at the end of the summer the oldest plants will be put onto the compost heap and the plantlets grown from last year put into a new bed. They should be ready to fruit next summer and indeed some have already begun to make their way towards the area designated to be their new home.

Strawberries are rampant spreaders if allowed to go their own way which needs careful management to keep them in bounds but also means there are always new plants waiting to take the place of poorly fruiting older ones.


Gardening TV and radio


7.30am, BBC2, Gardeners’ World. Monty Don shows how to divide hostas.

8am, BBC Radio Humberside, The Great Outdoors. With Blair Jacobs and Doug Stewart.

8am, Vale Radio, Down to Earth. William Jenkyns gets to grips with the Open Gardens Scheme and widens the search for gardening clubs in the Vale of York. Find Vale Radio at 9am, BBC Radio York, Julia Lewis. Gardening news and features from around North Yorkshire.

9am, BBC Radio Leeds, Tim Crowther and Joe Maiden.


9pm, BBC2, Kew On A Plate. It’s harvest time in the kitchen garden and stir-fried oyster mushroom broth and apple charlotte are on offer.


8.30pm, BBC2, Gardeners’ World. Monty Don starts digging out the new pond and Carol Klein advises Sally and Geoff Davis on taming overgrown shrubs.