Daffodils are cheery

Daffodils are cheery, yellow, early—but not sniff-worthy. Right? Wrong. Meet ‘Thalia’, one of many daffodil cultivars known for having a lovely fragrance. In addition to being perfumed, ‘Thalia’ runs counter to the daffodil stereotype by being not yellow but pure white. The small, bell-shaped flowers, with slightly reflexed petals, bloom March to May, depending on climate. Each short stem carries one to three gracefully nodding blossoms. This elegant beauty will slowly naturalize in the right spot, and it is usually ignored by both squirrels and deer.

Common name: ‘Thalia’ daffodil, triandrus daffodil

Botanical name: Narcissus ‘Thalia’
Plant type: Bulb
Zones: 3 to 8
Height: 12 to 18 inches
Family: Amaryllidaceae

Growing conditions

• Sun: Full sun to part shade
• Soil: Average, well-drained
• Moisture: Average

Care

• Mulch: Mulch to retain moisture in the soil.
• Pruning: None needed.
• Fertiliser: None needed. If your soil is poor, add organic fertiliser or compost in the fall.

Propagation

• By bulb division

Pests and diseases

• Not vulnerable to most pests.
• If drainage is poor, bulbs may rot.

Garden notes

• Grow ‘Thalia’ near a path or patio, where you can enjoy its perfume.
• ‘Thalia’ does well in rock gardens and at the front of the border.
• You can also plant ‘Thalia’ under deciduous trees. It will flower in the spring, before the tree’s leaves fill out. If you’ve got grass under your tree, just plant through it. But be prepared to hold off on the season’s first mowing until the foliage dies back. That way, the leaves have a chance to gather energy for the next year’s growth before they’re cut down.
• Plant bulbs in the fall, 3 to 5 inches deep.
• ‘Thalia’ is a good cut flower and a good bulb for forcing.
• Plant ‘Thalia’ with grape muscari for a lovely colour combination. Or combine it with other spring bulbs.

All in the family

• From about 50 species in the genus Narcissus (originally from Europe and North Africa) have come hundreds of daffodil cultivars. They’re divided into 13 groups, based primarily on the shape of their blooms. ‘Thalia’ is a triandrus daffodil, meaning it has two to six nodding flowers on each stem.
• Other familiar garden flowers in the amaryllis family include rain lilies, belladonna lilies, spider lilies, and, of course, amaryllis (Hippeastrum hybrids).

Cultivars

Other fragrant daffodil cultivars include:
• ‘Actaea’—red-rimmed cup and large, rounded, white petals
• ‘Baby Moon’—a golden-yellow miniature
• ‘Cheerfulness’—a double daffodil with yellow centers and white petals
• ‘Geranium’—orange cups, white petals
• ‘Hawera’—pale yellow with swept-back petals
• ‘Yellow Cheerfulness’—double, all-yellow
• ‘Silver Chimes’—cream-white flowers
• ‘Trevithian’—deep yellow

Spring jobs in the garden

Here are a few well-timed tasks that will pay off with a great beginning to your springtime gardening.

Prepare tools

Tune up the lawn mower and sharpen the blades. Wipe the wooden handles of garden tools with linseed oil and sharpen tools’ edges. Replace weak or broken handles or purchase new ones. Take an inventory of your tools, and make a list of new tools you’d like to buy and old ones you need to replace.

Cut perennials

Cut perennial foliage to the ground, with a few exceptions: Don’t prune salvia, Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), creeping verbena (Verbena canadensis), or artemesia until they start showing growth on last year’s stems. Then prune just above the emerging foliage.

Wait until sprigs of green growth appear on ornamental grasses, then cut back to the new growth. Prune butterfly bushes (Buddleia davidii) just as they begin to show new growth or when the last average frost date for your area has passed. If evergreen foliage of perennials such as Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis) is tattered from winter’s wear, remove blemished foliage to the ground; fresh, new foliage will quickly return. Trim the evergreen foliage of sedge (Carex spp.), liriope, and evergreen ferns.

Prune shrubs and trees

First, remove dead branches from woody plants. Then remove any cross-over branches that compete for sunlight. Selectively prune to open up the canopy of trees and remove older, less vigorous wood. If in doubt about removing a limb, be conservative—you can’t glue branches back on! Over the next few days, observe the shrub or tree. After a week, decide whether it looks fine or whether you need to prune other branches. The goal is to allow the plant to take its natural form with discreet pruning.

After several years, very little pruning is necessary. These shrubs and trees will be on their way to becoming beautiful specimens. However, if a shrub or tree has been neglected for several years, it may take three or four years to return it to a healthy, aesthetically pleasing form.

One exception for late-winter pruning is spring-blooming shrubs such as spirea, forsythia, and weigela—don’t prune anything except dead branches until these plants finish blooming. (It’s OK to prune summer-blooming shrubs such as crepe myrtle, vitex, and caryopteris now.)

Apply organic controls

Late winter (once temperatures stay above freezing) is the best time to apply horticultural oil sprays. These oils are a safe and effective way to control insects, allowing prudent gardeners to get a jump on possible infestations. When applied according to instructions, oils reduce populations of insect pests such as bagworms, mites, aphids, and mealybugs. If you had problems with these insects last year, it’s likely they will return again.

Analyse the garden

Spend 15 minutes once or twice a week walking around your garden looking for insect pests and diseases. They require less aggressive treatment when spotted early. Carry a plastic grocery bag so you can collect damaged leaves and fruits. To be sure you get an accurate assessment, get down to the plant’s level. Most diseases start on lower leaves and work their way up. Insects, which tend to prefer young, tender foliage, often hide on the undersides of leaves. Because insects and diseases are more common when you have rotten vegetables and fruits lying on the ground and hanging on the plants, dispose of these on your weekly walk.

Test soil

If plants in one area did not perform well, take soil samples and send them to your local cooperative extension agent or move the plant to a better location.

Update garden records

Make a resolution to keep a garden journal this year. in 2005. The journal helps you plan outdoor garden events—you can look back to see what bloomed in the past on that date, or remember plants that provided timely foliage color. Just as important, it’s a poignant reminder of past events in the garden, good and bad.

Everything you need to know about compost gardening

Compost is an excellent source of organic material, which improves lightness and workability of soil, helps improve water retention in sandy soils, and improves drainage in clay soils. Here’s more about composting:

What compost is

 

  • Compost is the decayed remains of organic materials. It’s that simple. Microorganisms eat whatever you feed them and turn it into particulate matter that in turn aids plants in absorbing nutrients from the soil for use during their growth cycle. Compost provides nutrients itself as well, depending on what ingredients were used.

What compost is not

 

  • Compost is not fertiliser. It can be used in conjunction with both organic and inorganic fertilisers or soil amendments to provide your plants a complete diet, though.
  • Compost is not potting soil. By itself, compost lacks enough structure to be used as potting soil. It also contains microorganisms that may or may not be good to contain in a potted environment. Sterilised compost can be used with other sterilised materials to make potting soil or seed starting media.
  • Compost is not dirt. Just because it looks like soil, smells like soil, and tastes like soil doesn‘t mean it is soil. Compost is organic matter and aids plants by loosening the soil. What to compost
    Theoretically, you can compost any plant material or byproduct, and any manure produced by vegetarian animals. However, there are some exceptions and preferences.

What to compost

 

Theoretically, you can compost any plant material or byproduct, and any manure produced by vegetarian animals. However, there are some exceptions and preferences.

The vast majority of other common plant material and farm-type animal manure can be used. Most common plant materials are fallen leaves, grass clippings, hay, straw, garden plants, deadheaded flowers. Common animal manures are horse, chicken, cattle, and rabbit. Horse manure must be thoroughly composted before using it. If it is not composted first, weed seeds in it may germinate in your garden.

What not to compost

Typical things that you can‘t compost include plastic, metal and glass. Recycle those.

Other items to avoid include meat-eating animal (dogs and cats) waste, bones, dead animals, dairy products, meats, and fats. Don’t compost fossil fuels, paint, pesticides, or harsh chemicals such as bleach.

Also: Never compost invasive plants, diseased plants, poison ivy, or weeds with many seeds.

How to compost

 

The short answer is…Make a pile of any acceptable materials and keep an eye on it.

The long answer is…Start with some bulky limbs on the bottom so that air will flow up under the pile into it. Layer enough brown materials on top so that they cover the limbs. Six or 8 inches will probably do. Spray this layer with a little water. Add green materials in a 6- to 8-inch-deep layer. Then add a layer of soil. You can also add some fertiliser, such as a 10-10-10 if you want, but don’t have to. Then continue with the layering until the bin is full or you run out of materials.

In about two weeks, the contents will have settled to about half their height. It’s time to turn it to introduce more air in the pile. Don’t worry about the layering this time. You want a good even mixture going back in. If you have new materials to add, throw them in the mix. (If you want to add table scraps to a full bin, just burrow 8 or 10 inches in the stuff, drop them in, and cover them.)How often you turn the pile is up to you. You don’t want to do it every day, and not once every six months. Give the bacteria in the pile time to heat and cool the pile. Any time after it’s cool again is a good time to turn it. Eventually, you’ll notice that there is more and more decayed material and less and less recognisable material and the pile quits heating up. That means it’s done. However, if you want an ongoing pile, just keep adding more greens and browns to it and sort out what you want to use as you need it.

Smelly compost

 

If your compost smells, watch the green materials-too much will be too wet and smell foul after a short while without some air flow. To prevent this, add more brown materials and disperse them evenly throughout the pile.

Or, turn your pile to add air. (The smell is caused by anaerobic decomposition. That‘s decomposition without oxygen, much like the fermentation of yeast used in making bread. You want aerobic decomposition, or decomposition with oxygen). If you dump a wheelbarrow full of cabbage leaves on a relatively small pile, then it‘s gonna smell one way or the other. Use common sense and bury any additions you make to the pile.

Compost bins

Circular fence or silo bin. Home improvement stores, feed and seed stores, and agricultural supply stores sell various types of wire fence in rolls of varying lengths. (Not chain link fence, but agricultural livestock fence.) It may look expensive, but if you go in with some friends, you can all have bins from the same roll. I don’t advise chicken wire: It’s too small and flexible, and the compost will bulge the wire and get stuck. Start by cutting about a 10-foot piece, leaving wire sticking out on the end and make a hoop with it. Crimp the loose wires or use tie wraps or something to bind the ends together. This should give you about a 3-foot-diameter hoop.

Pallets. Pallets are cheap. (Free in many cases.) They are good to use for your first bin so you‘ll know whether you want to seriously pursue composting. Pallets don‘t look great, and they‘ll rot and attract termites eventually, but you‘ll get a feel for composting without much of a monetary investment. My advice is to have at two least side-by-side pallet bins (using a total of five pallets). Make a three-wall structure, then add another back and side wall using one pallet as a center dividing wall. The idea is to create the pile in one bin using layers as above, then toss it back and forth to turn it. You could add a third bin to put completed compost in if you get serious about it.

Barrels and tumblers. If you have a small yard, and want a little compost fast with little effort, this is the one for you. The commercial ComposTumbler on a stand the most expensive of these options. If you have an old barrel with a cap (plastic or metal), you can make your own. Just drill a bunch of ½-inch holes in the barrel. Then stand the barrel on its end and fill it and cap it. Knock it over and push it around the yard once every other day or so. Water it once in a while. In a few weeks or months, you‘ll have finished compost. You can add more materials to this one as needed. If you don‘t know where to get a barrel, try a trashcan. If you get one on wheels, you can use it to make your compost in and wheel the finished product to the garden or potting shed for easy use.

Do you need a bin?

No. It‘s a matter of personal preference. Bins keep your contents together when the wind blows, though. Bins also look nicer in some situations than a pile of dead leaves and grass. Bins, depending on the type, might be able to keep rodents out, too. And, the bins might encourage you to get out and turn your compost since you invested the time and money into creating one. If you have the room, and don‘t mind a few loose leaves blowing, and appearance isn‘t paramount to you, you don‘t need a bin.


Compost pile placement

 

Look at your property. You don’t want a compost bin too far from the house and garden, yet not right next to them. You want it close enough that you‘ll actually use it, but not so close that it‘s an eyesore.

You can compost in either full sun or full shade. Full sun will dry the pile out faster, so you‘ll have to keep it watered. Conversely, in full shade, it will not dry out as easily, so you‘ll need better air circulation or to turn it more often.

Using compost

It‘s so good, and there are so many ways, that I can‘t list them all here! But here are some of the more popular ways…

  • Soil amendment. Most soil benefit from extra organic matter. Either till it in or use it as a top dressing to help provide nutrients and tilth to the soil. Incompletely finished compost will provide more drainage in compacted soils than finished compost. Bigger particles, better drainage. But any compost is better than no compost.
  • Mulch. If you just have so much compost that you don‘t know what to do with it, use it to mulch around plants. Incompletely finished compost works for this too.
  • Compost tea. Take a handful of finished compost, put it in a sock or leg of panty hose, and soak it in a bucket of water over night or for a few days. Use the water to water houseplants or other potted plants. Also good for watering special garden plants. Proportions are irrelevant. The stronger you make it, the more nutritive value it will have.

 

Basic terminology

 

  • Compost has a lingo all its own. Green, brown, hot, finished. What are they talking about? Here are some definitions…
  • Brown: It’s not just a colour. Brown materials are rich in carbon and provide food for microorganisms. Common examples are dried fallen leaves, hay, or straw.
  • Cold-Temperature: related term referring to method of slow composting. With the cold method, you pile your materials and let them set until you are ready to use them. No turning required. It’s called cold because the pile doesn’t routinely heat up very much. It can take several years to get finished compost from a cold process. Most cold piles are used in an unfinished state.
  • Finished: State of compost when none of the original contents of the pile are recognisable. It resembles a bunch of soft brown dirt, much like lightly dampened coffee grounds.
  • Green: It’s not just a colour, either. Green materials are rich in nitrogen and provide food for the microorganisms that break down the materials. Examples are fresh grass clippings and chicken manure.
  • Heap: Pile of contents in or not in a bin.
  • Hot: It’s a temperature condition as well as an ingredient condition. A compost pile will heat and cool as the microorganisms break down materials. During their feast, the pile may get as hot as 160 degrees F. Hot also describes the relative amount of nitrogen in fresh manure. The more nitrogen, the hotter it is said to be. Chicken manure is said to be the hottest manure commonly available. The word “cold” is not used to refer to materials without much nitrogen. They’re just not so hot. 🙂
  • Tilth: Workability of the soil. More tilth is better. More organic matter provides this.