In his regular column for French News Online "Lifestyle"
Section, professional gardener Mike Alexander, waxes lyrical as
he contemplates his February garden.
- Daffodils -
I am a devout dog lover and all my clients know that my Jack
Russell assistant and I are a package deal. You hire the dog and
you get me thrown in for free.
Recently however I arrived at one of my clients to find myself
being greeted by an exuberant puppy. He had apparently been abandoned
and was now "temporarily" staying whilst a new home
was found for him. I had a bad feeling about this and his giant
muffin sized paws told me he wasn't going to stay small for long.
Well, as I had anticipated he did not remain small and a second
home was never found but stay he certainly did. The problem is
that this is a dog who loves to dig. He has a wonderful nature
but the lawn looks like a minefield. He has dug up every plant
I have planted for the last six months and eaten several wonderful
mature specimens including an Acer palmatum and a Wisteria of
all things. The client is only able to scold him, at best, but
I am a proponent of firmer chastisement.
The only effect has been to make him more fond of me and he is
a constant shadow as I move around the garden, nuzzling me or
resting his head on my shoulder whenever I kneel down to do anything.
Others are sure he is showing me affection though I am more inclined
to believe he is just spying on me so he can memorise where to
launch his next attack.
The garden has taken rather a downhill spiral since his arrival,
along with my morale, so it was with some surprise that I noticed
the daffodils I had planted last year coming through and starting
to flower. Mice and voles are not fond of daffodil bulbs so I
can only assume the dog is not either, or they escaped his attention
when I planted them. Daffodils (jonquil in French) are members
of the Narcissus genus and there are about 5000 species and at
least 13000 hybrids so there is no shortage of choice. They come
in four colours, pink, white, salmon and, most commonly, yellow
ranging in height from 15 to 50 centimetres. Normally they are
long lived, providing the dog doesn't get them.
In Greek mythology they are named after the hunter Narcissus
who was said to be very handsome. Eventually the goddess Nemesis
led him to a pool where he fell in love with his own reflection
and refused to leave the pool till he died. The other gods felt
this was a rather harsh fate so allowed him to return as the flower
which we now know so well.
Dead heading daffodils after flowering will eliminate seed production
and boost strength, as will a twice yearly top dressing with a
good compost. It used to be said that the leaves should not be
removed until dead but research has shown that if they are removed
when they turn yellow the plants show little ill effect. They
can be divided every five years and will naturalise if allowed
to seed although flowering will take two to three years.