LIONS and LAMBS
“March brings breezes, loud and shrill, stirs the dancing daffodil”
March is certainly an unpredictable month. As the saying goes it ..” comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb”. Last year it was very dry and sunny but this year; the heavy snow and cold weather since the start of the month have set things back quite a bit in the garden. Our Snowdrops, which were in full bloom, were lost for over a week under a thick blanket of snow. But now it has thawed, they have stretched themselves to full height again and seem none the worse for their experience.
This month we should have been busy preparing the grounds for the Grand Opening of the House in April, but the snow curtailed any activity in the gardens for the first ten days. Bannockburn House looked magical against the sparkling white backdrop, not surprising since there were places in the grounds where the snow was 14 inches deep or more.
One of the more unusual benefits of lying snow is the opportunity it provides to discover what animals are living in the woodlands. It was fascinating to see Fox, Deer and Rabbit tracks crisscrossing the driveway only to disappear amongst the trees, and there were obvious Pigeon and Pheasant footprints around the bird tables. In addition to Blue tits, Great tits and Robins, we noticed a Wren, Thrush, Long-tailed tits, Goldfinches and best of all, a lively pair of minute Firecrests, working their way along the thick moss growing on the stone walls. It is amazing that such a tiny bird can survive our cold, harsh winter.
We have reached the middle of March and our beautiful golden Daffodil flowers are nowhere to be seen. By now, they should be fluttering and shaking in the garden as the wind races up and down the borders. We have Daffodil bulbs popping up all over the estate, which is hardly surprising since local visitors to the House have told us that one abiding childhood memory they all have is of masses of Daffodils growing everywhere. Let’s hope we will have flowers by Eastertide.
Daffodils come from the Mediterranean, and were grown in Egypt, Spain, Portugal, Turkey and Greece. They first reached these shores in the 1200’s and 500 years later, there were about 50 varieties, some of which still exist. As their popularity spread, the number of different types increased until, in the 1930’s they peaked at more than 6,000 varieties. Sadly, many of these different flowers have now disappeared although you may be lucky and find a rarity re-appears in your garden, if you have recently cut back an old, overgrown shrub or woodland edge.
In common with other bulbs, Daffodils can prove fatal if eaten but much medicinal research is being carried out as they promise possible treatments for Alzheimers and Leukaemia.
A Host of Golden Daffodils
The flowers are immortalised in Wordsworth’s famous poem and are most striking if you grow them in large groups creating “a host of golden daffodils”. If you want to try and grow your own ‘host of golden daffodils’, make sure you buy the species type e.g. the Tenby daffodil – Narcissus obvallaris, ‘King Alfred’ or the wild ‘Pseudonarcissus ‘. Modern varieties are quite spectacular but will take much longer to establish. Plant the bulbs about three times their depth in well-drained soil and in as sunny a place as possible, but remember the leaves are messy once the flowers have finished. Don’t be tempted to remove the foliage until it has withered away and turned brown, this allows all the goodness in the leaves to go back down into the bulb for better flowers next year. It also gives the flowers time to produce seed and if that grows, then, in four or five years’ time, you might find you have a new variety of daffodil. It may take some years till you see results so best to start planning now for 2019.
Plant lore tells us that Daffodils bring good fortune to the person who avoids trampling on them, so watch where you step on your next Spring walk!
by Margaret, Volunteer with the Gardening Team