the best flowers you can
Other related articles:
and Water Restrictions | Selecting
and Planting Daffodils for the Canberra region
At this stage of the year your daffodils
will be in the ground and growing well. You wait expectantly
for the flowers that spring will bring. The question
now is how do you get the best flowers you can from
your bulbs and, if you am going to pick (or show) them,
when and how to pick them for best results.
Growing the “best” flowers
I have heard it said that the flower is formed
in the bulb the year before and there is little you can do
now to improve them. This is only partly true. Yes, the flower
forms the previous season but how you grow them this year
will make an enormous difference to how good the flowers are.
There are three things that will make a real
difference to the quality of this year’s flowers –
water, Water and WATER. People often see the size and the
condition of flowers grown in Tasmania or New Zealand and
wonder what they are being fed. The answer is simple –
It is true that daffodils like good drainage
and do not like to be wet over summer – particularly
in Canberra where wet ground and hot water is a recipe for
disaster. But as a general rule most daffodils love water
over winter and early spring. As long as the ground does not
become a stagnant swamp, it is almost impossible to over-water
them – some of them will even grow in flowing water
over the winter months.
A good water supply will also improve the stem
and the quality of next year’s flower. So how much is
enough water. I have heard it argued by some growers that
at least 50 mm a week is required – about the amount
we get a month over winter in Canberra. Last winterwe got
even less and the stems and flowers of unwatered bulbs were
If you are going to water, avoid watering the
flowers as this risks directly damaging them and making them
more prone to wind damage – a wet daffodil in a strong
wind will split almost every time.
The other ingredient that will help colour
and stem in some cases is potash. Potash will also assist
in the development of quality bulbs for next year.
The only real regular pests are snails and
slugs which appear to be attracted to the best flowers. There
are not normally many of them around in early spring but some
form of control may be required. In some parts of New Zealand
bumble bees would cut holes in the trumpet/cup, but we do
not have that problem here.
Picking the flowers
One of the tricks for those of us who show
our daffodils is to know when to pick the flowers. Most flowers
are picked too young. In coolweather it can take up to a week
for a flower to reach its peak – with most of the good
flowers I have grown I have had to consciously resist the
urge to pick them for 3 or 4 days and “take the risk”
with the weather. Unfortunately this does not always work
and a good spring storm with the combination of heavy rain
and strong winds will wreak havoc.
There are some exceptions to this practice.
There are some varieties where the cups “burn”
in the sun – particularly those with vibrant red cups.
Here it is critical to understand the variety. Some can be
left 3 or 4 days with little trouble (or with a bit of cover).
Others after 2 or 2 days will need to be picked (no matter
how good your covers). And others you can pick as they first
open and allow to come out in a cool dark place (not the fridge!)
How to pick the flowers is a subject of much
discussion. The real issue here is the potential spread of
virus problems from one bulb to another. It has been suggested
that this risk is increased with the use of a knife or other
mechanical devices. Some people argue to snap the flowers
off. I personally think the aim should be to exclude virus
as much as possible and that reduces the magnitude of thepotential
problem. So find a method that works for you.
After the flowers are picked, I re-cut the
stems and put them in water as far up the stem as I can. The
flowers are then held in a cool dark place or in a fridge
until the day I want them. One trick is to remove the flowers
from the fridge the day before you want them. You might lose
some but the ones that survive will look that much better.
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