Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Garden of a golden afternoon

I doubt that anyone who bothers to read Prairiebreak could not relate with my afternoon at Savill Gardens: it was in April of 1981--in the late afternoon. There were hardly any visitors there. I remember taking a lot of pictures, only a few of which I've been able to put my hands on: the sun was angled, and as I wandered from one vale to the next, I marveled at the enormous quantity of daffodils--each vale with its own subspecies or species of N. bulbocodium or N. cantabricus, arrayed by the tens of thousads...nay! Millions!

My mentor, Paul Maslin, had told me "don't miss Savill Gardens": it was my first trip to England, and we got there fairly early in the trip. The visit was so haunting I've never been back. The temperature was balmy, everything was in perfect bloom! I don't seem to have a picture of the Magnolia campbellii, there were many throughout the parks, and their enormous flowers were shedding the occasional petal that floated down, swinging back and forth a tad as they drifted to the ground.

There were streamsides lined with the white East Asian cousin of our glorious native Aroid. There were drifts of this and that everywhere. I never even got to the great scree--I was so transfixed with the meadows and naturalized bulbs. Wordsworth's hackneyed poem springs to mind...only I wasn't lonely here, and hovered more like an eagle or a hawk, devouring the scene which is branded in my brain. 

There were acres like this...

Ironically, I have never seen the fabulous bulb-fields of Spain in the spring (on my depressingly long Bucket List), but in late September of 2001--you can perhaps deduce I remember that date--I found Narcissus serotinus in bloom along a roadside not far from Sevilla in Southern Spain...once again, in grass...

Narcissus albidus v. foliosus
 Forgetting the way I saw the daffodils growing at Savill, I was on a quest! I had to grow these dazzling bulbs in my garden. I planted them on my rock garden: they were fetching there a year or two before they disappeared...

Narcissus albidus v. foliosus
 Perhaps in another climate they'd persist on a rock garden--but these hoop petticoats did not.

Narcissus cantabricus
 Maybe Narcissus cantabricus would do better here? It lasted three years before disappearing.

Narcissus asturiensis
 But I remembered that my friend Sandy Snyder had planted a daffodil in her buffalo grass lawn many years ago (in the mid 1980's!).. When I visited I was amazed how many clumps had sown here and there!

Narcissus asturiensis
 Here you can see it mingling with crocuses...
Narcissus asturiensis
 You might have thought I'd take a lesson from my dear friend...

Narcissus 'Julia Jane' and friends in Mike Kintgen's garden last year...

I didn't figure things out yet, but little is lost on my clever colleague Mike Kintgen: his fantastic buffalograss lawn in front of his house is a riot of bulbs in spring, including a hoop petticoat!


Another angle...

I did remember one year to plant Iris danfordiae, hoping it might be more perennial in grass: it has responded enthusiastically: I took this picture yesterday. I put a hundred in my meadow several years ago and they've come back stronger every year, clumping up nicely!

Next year, perhaps, I can have some daffodils join in the mix?

Here is Mike's Narcissus starting to bloom again a few days ago: it's looking very happy here.

A last glimpse of Mike's wonderful grass as it looks right now--the purple Tommies and red tulips have yet to show...


I must revisit Savill Gardens this year: what might 36 years have wrought there? I may know in a few months and let you know too!

I must plant many more bulbs in my blue gramma meadow--especially Narcissi!

Funny--I've done hundreds of blogs--but this is only just the first time I've shared one of the most wonderful visits I've ever had in a garden...and one of the most exciting ways to grow plants ever: in native western grasses! (I guess I've not scraped the barrel quite yet...).


  1. Zlatá jarní krása 💛💛💛💛.Moc se mi to líbí.Michaela from Prague.

  2. Saville Gardens is now on my bucket list! With all those co mingling narcissus, there are bound to be some spectacular natural hybrids taking place! Thank you for sharing!

  3. I need to see these pictures as a reminder at order and planting time.

    I hate to admit it, but the spring bulbs give me a much better show than my doted upon rock garden. Maybe if I grew more of the easier plants my rock garden would be showier and get more complements from the neighbors.

    I originally tried growing bulbs in blue grass. The look proved too wild for being next to my front door. I removed the grass and now let snapdragons reseed in the bed. Some of the bulbs did seem to like the cooling shade from the unmown turf. This has especially been my experience with the daffodils. They almost all did poorly in this south facing bed that quickly gets too hot in summer. I have had much better luck in my continental climate where some shade from trees or shrubs develops later allowing the daffodils to keep their foliage longer.


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