Daffodil Dreams by Mar Jennings

“Daffodil Dreams” article by Mar Jennings in Weston Magazine’s Home Book II.
As a Westporter, former resident of Weston, a former competitive figure skater; I have done a wide array of things in my life. This unique combination has made me a performer, a team builder and a competitive yet creative businessperson. This creativity and energy has found its expression in the beautification and enhancement of my own home and garden in many original and pleasing ways. When time permits, I am usually working around my house or the garden perfecting my skills, learning, reading and experimenting in that peaceful oasis that I call my HOME and GARDEN.

I hope to inspire you with ideas and tips about your garden, use of design and color in your home to satisfy your taste and to create a home environment full of beauty. This is as fun and creative as you make it. Just as I was greatly influenced and motivated by my Mother and Grandmother in my childhood home and garden, I now realize that I have nostalgia flowers and plants that I loved as a child. Encouraged to be creative by my family, I think back to my favorite blooms while trying to discover new combinations of color to complement what I love.

In June 1997, I bought a new house that would challenge all my skills and become a learning odyssey of many years. The house was Bermuda pink and it rested on an empty lot with no landscaping or gardening of any kind. Immediately, the painting began. I chose a neutral caf̩ au lait with Navajo white trim, because your house color should complement your garden, not overshadow it. Although I knew the house had great bones, I still wanted to transform this blank slate into one of the most charming homes and gardens in Westport and Fairfield County, this according to many people who visited here this spring for the Westport Historical Society Hidden Garden Tour. I decorated the interior with a wonderful combination of antiques, new pieces of furniture, rugs, and artwork. I boldly used color on the walls against the advice of my friends, but ultimately my critics roundly complimented my color choices. The gardens began to take shape as I replaced diseased trees, designed a coordinated plan of fencing, border trees and shrubs, undulating perennial flowerbeds and a rich green lawn. Soon after, I built a small garden studio and a gravel driveway. Through trial and error, I slowly began to find which plants did well and spent a great deal of time in the gardens planting and moving things around.

As late September comes to a close, it is time to plant new bulbs. Because the majority of gardens in Weston are troubled with deer, the glorious daffodil reigns supreme – a sunny and warm harbinger of the spring warmth to come. Yellow is the color of the sun and it can help lift us out of winter’s depression. Here are three suggestions to have a wonderful daffodil display next spring. First, buy your bulbs in bulk at local nurseries or through a catalog. Choose different varieties according to bloom time and you can have up to two months of golden yellow happiness. You can make it an adventure and drive to Litchfield, have lunch in town and visit White Flower Farm (Whiteflowerfarm.com). I also recommend ordering on line in large wholesale quantities of 100 to 500 at Vanenglen.com, which is a Connecticut company in Bantam. Prices can be as low as $30 for 100 bulbs. There are dozens of sites; one of my favorites is bluestoneperennials.com. All of these companies also sell bulb food and offer excellent advice. Plant your bulbs in clumps of 10-15 amidst myrtle or pachysandra, up against rocks, along a fence, or anywhere in your beds. They need full to half sun and prefer a neutral well-drained sandy loam. Do not add organic matter – daffodils do not want it.

A second way to plant daffodils is to collect all the empty green plastic pots that you can from your travels to the nursery. Add 1-2 inches of soil, place the bulbs inside, pointy tip up, fill the pots and bury them 1-2 inches below the ground surface. Why use this method? In the spring as they sprout, you can pull the pots out of the ground and into a cachepot surrounded with sheet moss for a brilliant indoor centerpiece or onto a favorite pot on your patio. Outside, you can move them around and play with your bulb placement in the beds with little effort. You can also easily plant layers in the pots – daffodils on the bottom and grape hyacinths a bit higher up. This method will help you decide where to plant permanently.

The third way is what I call “instant color”. You are a busy professional and suddenly it is Thanksgiving. Oops! You forgot to buy bulbs this fall. In early spring, head to the nurseries and garden centers and buy flats of daffodils in different stages of bloom. Mix them together in clumps for instant color. They will return next year. Be sure not to cut back the leaves until June, allowing the bulb to absorb nutrients from the sun. Some people advise braiding or folding down the leaves for esthetic reasons, purists say to just leave them alone. You choose. Snip off the dead flowers.

Every two or three years in the summer, daffodil bulbs should be dug up and separated. Put small weaker bulbs in a less viewed part of the garden. Plant the larger bulbs in the most visible garden spots. If you see bulb rot and signs of worms, dust bulbs with a fungicide after discarding rotted bulbs in the trash. It may be best to remove entire beds of infested bulbs and plant other perennials there to confuse the pests. Do not forget to fertilize. If you don’t have the time, just buy new bulbs every few years and keep planting. In the right soil and light, daffodils will naturalize and spread.

Over the years, friends and acquaintances have asked my advice on many gardening and decorating matters. For some, I have become a consultant to guide the planning of their gardens and to help them create that special environment that ultimately states in part who they are. I was asked to contribute this quarterly article to Weston Magazine in the hope of sharing some ideas with you. I look forward to receiving your comments and questions at [email protected].

And there you have it!