Daffodils under tree

Episode 19: Daffodils with Adrian Scamp

Roots and All Podcast Episode 19 – Daffodils with Adrian Scamp

The daffodils have been in full swing for a few weeks now and as today’s guest, Adrian Scamp of Scamp’s Daffodils tells us, we can expect them to carry on gracing us with their cheery blooms into May.

Each year, I’m newly amazed by the indomitable daffodil; its ability to cope in all weathers, to grow in seemingly unpromising situations and to flower successively from December to May if you choose the right varieties.

This episode, we cover every question you had about daffodils but were afraid to ask! Adrian gives his expert advice on:

When to order and when to plant bulbs (hint: order now!)

The conditions favoured by daffodils including soil and aspect

When to feed and with what

How to propagate

Troubleshooting any problems

About Adrian

Scamp’s Daffodils was started by Ron Scamp. Ron’s passion for the daffodil developed as a child in the 1940’s and 50’s whilst spending his childhood on his uncle’s daffodil farm in the Tamar Valley. In 1990 after years of growing daffodil varieties in his garden and greenhouse, Ron produced his first catalogue offering select varieties to other daffodil enthusiasts.

Over the years the collection has developed and now contains approximately 2500 varieties including modern, species and historical collected from all over the world. As a professional grower, Ron has achieved many awards including RHS gold, the E.H Trophy for best exhibit and the Lawrence Medal.

Adrian joined the company in 2007 and continues to grow and develop the collection. During the spring, they display their flowers at many shows and find this aspect of their work particularly enjoyable, as they meet other enthusiasts and customers both old and new. Each year, a list of the shows they will be attending is published in the news section of their website.

Adrian can be contacted by phone 07826 067175 or via email amscamp@qualitydaffodils.com Please leave a message on the mobile as Adrian is often on the fields with no phone signal.

Links:

Scamp’s Daffodils www.qualitydaffodils.com

The Scamp’s Daffodil Catalogue – view here

A.M. Scamp
49 Mongleath Road
Falmouth
Cornwall

07826 067175
amscamp@qualitydaffodils.com

Scamp’s on Facebook

Scamp’s on Instagram

The Daffodil Society website

Further Reading

Daffodil: the Remarkable Story of the World’s Most Popular Spring Flower by Noel Kingsbury – buy here

Episode Transcription

[INTRO]

{SFX: Intro music plays}

[00:01] INTRO: This is the Roots and All podcast, here to help you get growing. Join us as we explore everything plant-related both indoors and out, and provide the information you need to create your perfect green environment. Presented by Sarah Wilson.

[00:21] {SFX: Intro music starts to fade out}

[00:21] SARAH: Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of the podcast. This week I’m speaking to Adrian of award-winning daffodil nursery Scamp’s Daffodils. The beauty of daffodils is that they herald spring, they flower forth triumphant with little intervention and in inclement weather and I reckon you can find at least one in the large cannon of daffodil varieties to whet your appetite, even if you’re fussy like me. So without further ado, here’s Adrian to answer all your daffodil questions…

[00:50] SARAH: Quite often, I’m driving along and I will see daffodils along the roadside verges and what I’m wondering is, are they native to the UK?

[00:57] ADRIAN: It’s an interesting question actually, because we often see the likes of the lobular which is the pseudonarcissus, English wild daffodil and we also see varieties such as obvallaris, the Welsh Tenby, so the name would suggest that they are native to this country and that you’re going to see them growing in the wild. And we do see them growing in the wild now, purely because of the years that have gone by and the fact they’ve naturalised in certain areas, particularly around castles and monasteries and historical places, so as far as where they came from, the original species daffodils, of which there is, depending on who you talk to, there’s around 50 different varieties, up to a couple of 100, of the species forms. Of course, there’s many more now. Those would have been found in places like Spain, Portugal, France and also parts of Africa and Asia. Some of those are slightly more susceptible to our weather than others, but generally speaking they all do pretty well over here. Yes, so how they got here, there;’s lots of different theories. You know, the Romans used to carry them, they believe, as medicinal purposes to treat their horrific wounds they had. I certainly wouldn’t recommend that, it wasn’t one of their better ideas. But, yes, Romans, travellers and of course modern day botanists now bring them across. You’ll find them all over the world in the temperate climate.

[02:35] SARAH: So how long is the daffodil season?

[02:39] ADRIAN: That can depend on where you live and if you’re a bit careful, certainly in this country, in England, if you’re careful about what you buy, you can extend the season to 6, maybe 7 months of the year. So as an example for us down here in Cornwall, I’ll have varieties such as the Rheinveld’s Early Sensation and the Paperwhite and a few others that will start end of October, November, depending on the season for Christmas. And then you’ll get later varieties such as the Narcissus poetics recurvus, of the double white poetics and those varieties will be flowering for us in May, so yeah you can stretch the season out to 6 to 7 months.

[03:25] SARAH: Actually, now you mentioned it, I’m going to get you to explain what we should be doing with out Paperwhites indoors because I know people love to have them but they still are a bit of a mystery. Could you just briefly touch on that, what we should do if we want to force the bulbs?

[03:40] MICHAEL: Forcing bulbs is something I generally don’t do, but you can have a bit of fun trying it. Paperwhite, it requires a warm summer in order to initiate the flowering so first of all that bulb needs to be warm and then it needs to to be cooled and you can be put it into a dark area. Now the dark area will just force the bulb to produce some shoots slightly towards the surface of the soil. Keep an eye on it, once its starts to do that, bring it out and put it into the windowsill where it’s got plants light and then you’ll find that the Paperwhite will start to grow and you should get flowers a little bit earlier. But the success on that, it can be a little bit hit or miss. Occasionally it’ll work properly and other times you’ll just have to wait and it’ll eventually flower a bit later in the season for you.

[04:31] SARAH: Fine. So if you didn’t want to force it, you would be talking about planting it in a pot and keeping it in a pot until it flowered in its own time, is that right?

[04:39] ADRIAN: Yes but be careful on this because the artificial environment in the house, in can be sometimes too warm for a daffodil. Daffodils do sometimes need a little bit of a colder climate and they also need the sunlight so the majority I would say no, don’t try and force them in that respect. But the Paperwhite yes, people do have great success and they call it the Christmas flower for that reason, and of course it’s a lovely scent to have in the house.

[05:08] SARAH: So I was wondering as well, talking from a personal perspective, I’ve got really heavy clay soil and it’s horrible and I just chuck daffodils in and they seem perfectly happy, which seems to be a little bit in contrast to where they come from originally, I’m assuming they want warmer soils, better drained soils. Do they cope with all certain types of soils or do some varieties work better in clay? Do some maybe not flourish in clay?

[05:35] ADRIAN: Clay is particularly a problem, the daffodil generally prefers a well-drained soil, however the soil needs to be moisture-retentive, so by that I mean they don’t want to dry out totally but equally if it gets waterlogged it can induce things like basal rot of the soft base on the daffodil and cause you loss of the bulb. So, as far as clay goes, yes they can be planted but you need to be careful that it’s not going to get waterlogged, so by that you need to be digging a reasonable size hole. At the bottom of that hole, put a little bit of grit, on top of that add some multi-purpose compost and then plant the bulb. Not the idea of this is that the water will drain through the gravel, coarse garden grit is what you’ll be looking for, so that the base isn’t actually sat in water, by doing that you should find that come the summer months when it’s dried out slightly, the roots should have gone down and taken and the bulb should be protected. Clay is most definitely a problem with daffodils. Other soils such as sandy soil in contrast, again they can do quite well with that. With sand, you need to planting the bulb really quite deep so by that an average bulb, 4-6 inches deep. I would suggest planting it about 8 inches deep this allows the root to go down further and find the goodness it needs that the sand wouldn’t have. And also, make sure that it’s kept moist because the sand will drain away very quickly and the roots will be left with no water and any goodness that was in that area will also disappear so perhaps a feed as well would be a good idea in sandy areas.

[07:25] SARAH: And is 4-6 inches deep a good rule of thumb for most of the varieties?

[07:29] ADRIAN: Yup, 3-4 times the depth of the bulb so for instance a miniature bulb the size of your fingernail if you plant that 6 inches deep it’s far too deep for the bulb. But a bigger bulb, equally if you plant it too close to the surface you’ll find that it will split up as it does grow the foliage won’t have the support that it will need and the daffodil will start to fall over and droop, so 3-4 times the depth of the bulb is a good rule of thumb.

[07:57] SARAH: And do they need full sun or can any of them cope with shade?

[08:02] ADRIAN: They don’t necessarily need full sun, but they do need a little bit of partial sun, so full sunlight to partial sunlight is what I’d say. There are a couple of points on this. The woodlands for instance where you get the canopy, generally speaking the daffodil would be ok there, the reason being that the canopy of the woodland area would form slightly later so woodland areas are fine. Coming out of woodland areas to sunnier aspects, if you were to plant daffodils along perhaps a south facing wall, sometimes that can be a little bit too hot for them unless you’ve got the depth of the bulb. Daffodils do need a temperate climate, they do need it a little bit cold first to initiate that flowering and if they’re too hot throughout that growing season you’ll find that the daffodil will come up, the bud will form and then the bud can abort so it ends up hollow and you lose your flower. So if that’s happening just try a slightly cooler aspect of the garden but yes daffodils do need the sunlight, they do need the photosynthesis to work with the leaves and as they die back, that goodness will go back into the bulb ready for next year so sunlight is important for them.

[09:20] SARAH: And if we do have the instance where they come up and the flower’s aren’t appearing, sunlight’s obviously one reason, are there any other reasons they might come up blind?

[09:23] ADRIAN: There’s a number of reasons for that, of course the one we’ve just covered. Daffodils will multiply themselves by bulb multiplication and many varieties you can leave down and this will happen over years and years and you can forget about them. But if you do find that they start to come up and you get fewer flowers each year and eventually they become totally blind, it could well be because of over-crowding with the bulb multiplication so you need to split the daffodils. You need to lift them up, divide them gently, just by pulling them apart and planting them back when you plant them back ensure you plant them at the depth we’ve just suggested so 3-4 times the depth of the bulb, 6-8 inches deep and plant them a couple of inches apart and then the process should start again, you should be able to get your flowers and eventually they’ll clump up and you’ll end up with more and more of a display with your daffodils. So over-crowding is one. You’ve also got if you plant them too shallow that can cause the daffodils to come up blind eventually so again plant them a little bit deeper. Not enough nutrients in the ground can be another, however the daffodil doesn’t need a huge amount it will send its roots down and it will find the nutrients however a little bit of high potash fertiliser and I put emphasis on the high potash. Of course you need nitrogen and other goodness in there but not too much of it. Too much nitrogen can cause a soft bulb and too much leaf whereas the potash encourages the flower, the fruit that we all want to see, so high potash. Lastly, if you cut the foliage back too early, perhaps you fold the foliage and tie it, I’ve seen this done in the past to keep the garden tidy, the goodness won’t go back into the bulb and you’re gonna lose the flower, you’ll get the leaves but you’ll lose the flower. Follow these rules and you should be ok with them.

[11:24 SARAH: So there’s a couple fo things I probably want to go back to from that; when you say about the feeding with the high potash, when would you actually do that?

[11:31] ADRIAN: Well, feeding I recommend you do that early spring just as they’re showing their tips and then again probably in the autumn, late autumn and I would use a granular feed and you can just scatter this down in the area and let the weather take it in and it will slowly leach into the soil. Early spring, again I would use a granular feed. There is an argument that you should use a liquid feed because that will get straight down into the soil and they’ll take it up but they’re flowering for a good period so granular feed and the rain we do tend to get in this country it will take the goodness into the soil and the bulbs feed off of that. Perhaps with the exception of pots, with a pot you do want that feed to get straight in there, most certainly a liquid feed but again a high potash feed, low nitrogen. Do that early spring as they’re starting to show and you could do that a couple of times through the season.

[12:31] SARAH: And are they all suitable to be grown in pots or is it only certain types?

[12:39] ADRIAN: They will all grow in pots and they will do well however there are certain rules we need to take into account. First of all, some of the tazetta types, the Mediterranean region these come from, with beautiful scented flowers. They’re very tall and they do produce a reasonable amount of foliage and they’re generally back of borders. Now they will do ok in spots and they will do ok in tubs however they tend to take a lot of goodness out of the pot very, very quickly, as will most of the daffodils, and they produce a lot of foliage that can look a bit untidy in a pot, so some of the tazettas, by all means experiment but they’re not always as good in the pots,. The other bulbs yes, pop them in there and enjoy them you can have some really fantastic displays but because the daffodil needs a lot of goodness to take in to the bulb through the flowering so that’s its in the foliage for the following year, what we tend to find is that in the pot, the first years it’s great, the second year it’s ok and in the third year it should really go into the garden. A bulb will start to shrink down in size and perform quite so well because it’s a little bit too restricted and not getting quite the goodness that it should.

[13:53] SARAH: So in an ideal world, we’d probably use them for one year and then put them in the garden and get a new lot for the next year?

[13:59] ADRIAN: A lot of people like to do that. One year in the pot, just to see what they’ve got, make sure it’s performing well and then they put it in the garden and I think that’s a very good idea.

[14:08] SARAH: So you mentioned that they bulk up at the bulb, is that how they spread? If not, how else do you propagate them?

[14:15] ADRIAN: yes is the answer, that is how they spread, they spread by bulb multiplication. But they also spread through the seed however the seed can take a lot longer and it needs to be in an ideal situation. So for most of us it will be bulb multiplication that the daffodils spread by. So ifs you want to do that, give it a couple of years, maybe 3 to 4 years, lift the bulbs, divide them and you can plant them back in in different areas of the garden if you wish and you will end up with more bulbs. If you’re going to try it by seed which is great fun, you can take the seed from behind the flowerhead as it dies back. I would suggest planting them in a seed tray in controlled conditions. It the garden and in the wild it will happen, they will spread by seed of course but they need an area that’s gonna be undisturbed. Most of us in the garden are going to be raking around, planting other things, it’s just not going to happen for us in the average garden. Seed of course is going to take a lot longer to flower as well, you’re probably talking 4 or 5 years before you get a flower on them.

[15:23] SARAH: So people like to naturalise them in lawns, so I’m assuming again they’re spreading by bulb multiplication rather than seeding, is that correct?

[15:19] ADRIAN: Well, it is, yes. Most of the daffodils you can plant in grass but you’ve got to remember the foliage must be allowed to die back so therefore in a grassy area if you mow the grass it’s going affect the leaves, you’re not going to get that goodness so you need to keep it long for a good period of time, probably about 6 weeks after the flower has died back which generally takes you to about June time. I would make a suggestion that if you are planting in turf, if you plant in clumps then you can mow around them whereas if they’re scattered you’ve got a bit swathe of grass, so plant them in little clumps and also go for earlier varieties so that you’re not during the summer months having to wait for the grass and the daffodils to die back. So we mentioned a few earlier, the lobular and the obvallaris, the English daffodil and the Welsh Tenby’s, they’re great. You’ve also got Rheinveld’s Early Sensation, Tete-a-Tete, that’s a good one that the majority of us know and we see growing, it grows very well and it does naturalise quite well.

[16:30] SARAH: So once they’ve finished flowering, should we be taking off the stalks of the flowerhead?

[16:37] ADRIAN: Yes, you can do. You don’t need to worry unduly. The way I grow the flowers, I’ve got 2500 different varieties there spread over 15 acres and I’m certainly not going to go out there and deadhead them all! However, the argument is that if you take the seeded off the daffodil the goodness that’s there will go back into the bulb rather than the seedhead. So yes, it is a good idea to do that. The other reason I would suggest deadheading is the aesthetics of it. Once that flowers gone and it’s dying back, it’s not a pretty sight on the end of that stalk so get rid of it, just leave the foliage. So yes and no. Don’t worry if you miss it but deadhead if you like.

[17:18] SARAH: And how do they behave in a border? Are they happy to come up through other plants, are they happy that once they’ve gone over their foliage might get covered by other plants?

[17:28] ADRIAN: Yeah, generally that’s not too much of an issue. Of course they’ve got to get the sunlight so you don’t want them somewhere that’s going to cast a shade across them totally but the daffodil is a great survivor and it will push its way up and as I said, they even do well in woodlands and those sort of areas so no, plant them where you think you’ll get a good display and if you don’t have a success there, don’t be afraid to lift it and move it somewhere else.

[17:53] SARAH: Ok, and when would you do that, just after flowering?

[17:57] ADRIAN: Well you can do that either when they’ve died right back so you’d leave that and mark it and leave it until June, that sort of time, however there’s not much of a problem moving them in the green. Some people would say not to and that’s because of root damage, but if you want to dig them deep to move them out, plant them where you want to in the green. Yopu’ll find that they’ll probably droop over and look a bit sorry for themselves for the first year but the following year they should come back and they’ll be absolutely fine.

[18:26] SARAH: And are they susceptible to any pests and diseases?

[18:29] ADRIAN: Yes they are, not a huge amount but there are certain diseases that can get into the bulbs. You can get the mosaic virus and the basal rots. There’s not a huge amount you can do about this in you garden, there’s not any sprays and the like that you can generally buy other than commercially. Really if you do get one of these viruses you need to be lifting the bulbs and disposing of them. They can come for a number of reasons, they may well have come to you like that, they may well have picked up something in your garden, it may well just be one of those things, it’s just part of gardening. Some things work, some things don’t. I would suggest if you order new bulbs, when you get them, just inspect them. Squeeze them firmly, have a look at the base to make sure there’s not any white mould and also look at the neck to make sure that’s looking healthy. If there is a problem, whoever your supplier is, mention it to them. It is something that does creep in occasionally despite whatever you do to stop it but on the whole it’s not a major problem and daffodils, if you do want something to plant in the garden, they’re a good bet, you’ll be ok with it. They do get a few pests, the narcissus fly is a pest that can get down there and the larvae feed off of the bulb. Again, not a lot you can do about that just keep the weed down in that area. But as far as pollinators go, a lot of the modern daffodils don’t have as much pollen as some of the species types would, so the species and the early varieties, you’ll find the bumblebees like got visit and some varieties more than others, so yes pollinators will go to them but not perhaps as much as other plants. But then our bees are quite clever, they want to go to the easiest source to get as much from whatever they’re gathering, as easy as possible so they are going to look for flowers with a higher pollen count and a higher nectar count than perhaps the daffodil can offer.

[20:29] SARAH: I wonder if perhaps you’d noticed a trend for any particular varieties over the past years, or colours that have been more popular, or certain heights or certain flower types?

[20:40] ADRIAN: The colours are so diverse throughout the range whether you look at the more modern daffodil that’s been bred or you look at the species and the older varieties. Irrespective of what sort of thing you’re looking for, you’ll get a good colour range and you’ll get a good scent. What I would say is over the last few years there has been a bit of a revival in some of the historical varieties. They may not win the prizes on the show bench as much, but in the gardens and the orchards, they look very natural and they’re quite stunning. However, recently I have found that the modern varieties, people are enjoying them purely because of the colour and the brightness and the scent, you put those in a pot on the doorstep and they definitely draw the eye. It’s a difficult one to answer I think people’s trends and ideas change from year to year and they like to haver a go at something different so I have to wait and see what this year brings.

[21:37] SARAH: Indeed. And you mentioned the tazetta ones for scent, and I guess this is a bit of a subjective question, but what ones are the best for scent in your opinion?

[21:46] ADRIAN: Well, there’s many different varieties of daffodils, so they put them in different divisions, 1 to 13. The main scented ones would be divisions 7 and 8. Your jonquillas and your tazettas. To make that a little bit easier they are multi-headed daffodils. So they’re mulit-floreted as they come up, they’re all very, very scented. So if you’re looking for scented ones, jonquillas, tazettas, however there are exceptions to the rules so some of our later varieties, the poeticus daffodils, or the pheasant’s eyes as people will know them they can be very scented and there’s a few others that creep in there. One of my favourites, it’s a great name, it’s Sir Winston Churchill that’s a very highly, sweetly scented daffodil. Not cigar smoke as you might think.

[22:48] SARAH: Glad to hear it. So if people are thinking of ordering daffodils, when do they need to order, when do they need to plant, when do they need to be thinking about next year?

[22:53] ADRIAN: As far as ordering daffodils, I would recommend order as early as possible, especially if you want something a little bit specific some of these daffodils aren’t grown on mass, some of these small growers like ourselves that are trying to keep them and preserve them for the future, so once they’ve gone they’ve gone. Order as early as possible. As far as planting goes, you’re not going to get them until September, which is when you should be planting a daffodil, September October time, so what I say is order now. When you’ve received them in September that’s when you should be planting the daffodils ready for display next year.

[23:35] SARAH: And so people might bump into you at some shows that are coming up, is that correct? Would that be a good thing to do, to visit an exhibitor at a show or to go and see a display of daffodils and then make a note of what you like and then as you say, place your order?

[23:46] ADRIAN: Yeah, absolutely there are various shows that go on throughout the country, be it a village show or an RHS show, so go along and have a look, there’s always people there that will be willing to talk to you about daffodils and give you a little bit of advice and you’ll be made more than welcome. You can also look at the daffodil society, I’m sure they would give you all the help you need and put you in the right direction.

[24:10] SARAH: And if people want to look at your website can you just let me know your website address?

[24:15] ADRIAN: It’s R A Scamp Quality Daffodils and the website address is www.qualitydaffodils.com

[24:25] SARAH: Yes, do go and check out Adrian’s website. I’ve also posted a link to his catalogue in the show notes so you can go and have a look and be tempted by all the beautiful daffodils they have to offer. It really is very good advice to plan your garden where possible, so if you have a chance, it’s a great idea to have a look around now and identify any gaps in your planting or your containers and to plan the bulbs that could fill those gaps next year. Much as it goes against my slapdash nature and compulsive purchasing habits, the best gardens are those with a sense of coherence and this is achieved in large part by forward planning. So go round and make a note of which daffodils you really like the look of, identify areas where you can plant them, be bold and brave and order plenty rather than dotting a few here and there and don’t forget to get your order in early before they sell out! A really bug thank you to Adrian for sharing his knowledge and thanks to you for listening. I’ll catch you next Tuesday for a special Budcast where I’ll talking exotic plants and why you might want to panic buy plants before December comes around. Intrigued? You should be…

OUTRO: You can download or listen to the podcast direct from the website www.rootsandall.co.uk where you’ll also find my blog and a sign-up form for the newsletter which gives you a weekly round-up of content, plus the inside scoop on things like upcoming guests. Or you can subscribe wherever you normally get your podcasts. Email me with comments and feedback at podcast@rootsandall.co.uk follow me on twitter: rootsandall, facebook: rootsandalluk and instagram: rootsandallpod. But please also check out my Patreon where you can make a one-off donation or take out a monthly subscription to help support my work because if you like what I do, please help me to continue doing it, even if you make a one-off donation of a pound, trust me, it all helps and I will be immensely grateful. So please go to Patreon and search for Roots and All.

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