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Tuesday, September 24, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Gardening: Daffodils signal spring is coming

Cardiff, Wales, was carpeted with blooming daffodils on March 1, 2019. It signaled spring is happening in other parts of the world and will eventually make its way to Spokane in the coming weeks. (Pat Munts / The Spokesman-Review)
Cardiff, Wales, was carpeted with blooming daffodils on March 1, 2019. It signaled spring is happening in other parts of the world and will eventually make its way to Spokane in the coming weeks. (Pat Munts / The Spokesman-Review)

Spring is out there somewhere. I caught a glimpse of it during a layover in Wales on my way back from Africa. It was wonderful.

To break up almost 19 hours of flying, I stopped in London and traveled London to Cardiff, Wales for three days to notch off another country. On arrival at the train station, we were greeted with a beautiful men’s chorus celebrating St. David’s Day. St. David is the patron saint of Wales.

Beyond the pomp of singing and banners waving were parks and gardens filled with pale yellow daffodils, St. David’s flower, just coming into bloom. They smelled so good I didn’t want to think about what awaited me back in here Spokane.

Spring bulbs are the harbingers of the end of winter. The snowdrops will be blooming just as the snow melts. Close behind them will be the tiny reticulated iris and crocus followed by winter aconite and scilla. By mid-April, it will be time for the earliest of the daffodils and tulips. By late May, we will be treated to mid and late-season daffodils and tulips, muscari or grape hyacinth, anemone and hyacinths. The scent will be heavenly.

Most spring bulbs are fairly easy to grow but they do need a little care to ensure blooming next spring and many springs after that. The first thing to do if you didn’t do it in the fall is mark where the patches of bulbs are emerging, so you don’t dig into them later in the year planting something else. Set out some stakes when you see new foliage poking through the ground. With a weatherproof felt marker, write the name of the bulb on the stake so you can keep track of what is where. When the patch is well up, take some photos of the garden for a visual record.

Most bulbs could use an application of a 5-5-5 garden fertilizer and bone meal as they emerge and another one as they finish blooming. This will give the bulbs an extra kick to store up energy for next spring’s blooms.

As bulbs finish blooming, leave the foliage on until it starts to die back later in June and July. The bulbs use a lot of energy blooming, and they need their foliage to produce food that is stored in the bulb for next year. If you don’t like the ugly look of the fading foliage, plant other perennials or annuals in front of the bulbs to hide them. Don’t fold or tie up the foliage as this reduces the leaf area exposed to the sun.

If bulbs have been in the ground for several years and the flower production has dropped off, make a note to transplant some of them in late September and early October. Leave the small bulbs to grow and plant some of the larger ones somewhere else.

Most bulbs don’t need much extra water in the spring beyond the rain. After they have gone dormant, they need very little of it.

Pat Munts has gardened in the Spokane Valley for over 40 years. She is co-author of “Northwest Gardener’s Handbook” with Susan Mulvihill. She can be reached at pat@inlandnwgardening.com.

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