Monday, 24 August 2015

A Host of Golden Daffodils

If you want to see, as Wordsworth did, a ‘host of golden daffodils…beside the lake, beneath the trees, fluttering and dancing in the breeze,’ in your own garden now is the time to plant them. What’s more, you don’t need a lake or rolling acres to have a spectacular show. The secret is to plant them in quantity and with a little thought on position.
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Daffodils (Narcissus) are incredibly easy to grow for every full sized bulb that you buy already has next spring’s flower formed within it. All you have to do is pop them in the ground as soon as possible after purchase and nature does the rest.
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A general rule is to plant any bulb twice the depth of its height: so if your bulb is two inches high, your planting hole needs to be four inches deep. When they are tucked safely below ground at that level the bulbs aren’t so likely to get damaged when weeding. To get the ‘host’ look don’t plant singly or in tiny groups of twos and threes. Think big, think twenty-five, fifty or even a hundred or more. This may sound an expensive option but daffodils are readily available in bulk mail order and many garden centres offer a ‘cram as many as you can into a bag’ deal. It is worth remembering too that the bulbs will continue to increase in quantity and flower for many years making them incredibly good value for money.
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Because daffodils flower early in the year, before most other plants in the border have got going, it is not necessary to plant them at the front. If they are planted further back, later their dying leaves will become hidden by spring growth. You will find that when planted too far forward, they are both unsightly and a nuisance.
Narcissus 'Salome'
Narcissus ‘Salome’
One of the best ways of growing daffodils is to grow them in grass or under trees – just as Wordsworth saw them. The simplest way to do this is to simply throw the bulbs and plant them where they fall. Some will land very close together and some further apart which makes them look as if they have been growing there forever. Make the throw gentle, a cross between underarm cricket and bowls – you’re not trying to win the Ashes. In grass, the bulbs will be easier to spot if you mow the grass as short as possible beforehand.
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Which varieties to select is only difficult because there is almost too much choice. For naturalising I tend to select three standard varieties that flower at slightly differing times, thereby extending the flowering period. In the borders I just choose those varieties that I fancy.
Narcissus 'Chanterelle'
Narcissus ‘Chanterelle’
Although daffodils are best planted during August and September, I usually find I’m too busy with other garden tasks then. I have found they can be planted right up to December without a problem providing wintry weather hasn’t closed in. If the thought of planting large quantities sounds rather daunting remember you can always plant year after year until you’ve achieved the aimed for look.
Nine thousand daffodils!
Nine thousand daffodils!
John Shortland is the author of Why Can’t My Garden Look Like That? a jargon-free and easy to read gardening manual, available from Amazon and good bookshops.  To take a peep inside click on the image below.

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Saturday, 1 August 2015

A Quiche or a Quad Bike? (the quiche won)

Sometimes you stumble over a gem of a place whether it’s a village, country house or, in this case, a shop. But it isn’t just any old shop for in it you can buy anything from a saddle and rugs for your horse, gifts for non-horsey friends, lunch or … a sofa (well, I very nearly did until common sense got in the way). Actually, I’d rather have bought the rather nifty looking quad bike but I wasn’t even allowed to consider that.

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Harley Equestrian’s Lifestyle Shop can be found down winding Northamptonshire country lanes providing you have map, compass or a sat nav. Fortunately, the latter takes you to the door. Now anything with the name ‘lifestyle’ in the title tends to make me want to drive in the opposite direction but, fortunately, my wishes were overridden. I was bowled away by the treasure trove I found within. There is more than enough to delight both the rider as well as those with no love of things horse.

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The way to a man’s heart is via his stomach and the lunch I ate at the café was delicious: the lightest of pastries with incredibly tasty savoury fillings were freshly prepared while we waited. The pudding was – as so often is the case – quite unnecessary and finished the meal perfectly. We were interested to discover that the café holds regular Friday night dinners, catered for by Eydon’s Pantry, a small local enterprise which also create meals for home eating.

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Although it’s a bit of a trek from the Cotswolds I shall certainly be visiting again if only for Christmas gift ideas. Somehow ‘though, I feel that I’ll be back a lot sooner – probably on a Friday night.


Harley Equestrian Country Lifestyle, Woodford Halse
Eydon’s Pantry

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