Pacific Northwest

April, 2013
Regional Report

Favorite or New Plant

Dutchman's Breeches
The delicate white flowers of Dutchman's breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) are one of my favorite reminders that spring is here. The plants emerge and flower when the air is still brisk and soil is still cold. Dutchman's breeches grows best in richly organic soil, where it multiplies from seed and forms new clumps. It flowers for several weeks in early spring, but once its glossy, black seeds have been dispersed, it slips into dormancy. Because it dies back by summer, it makes a good companion for shade-loving plants whose expanding leaves fill in the gaps. I have it planted in a shade bed surrounded by hostas, maidenhair ferns, and astilbes.

Clever Gardening Technique

Dividing Daffodils
Under good growing conditions, daffodils proliferate amazingly well. Overcrowding will reduce their vigor, so if you cultivate daffodils, you will almost certainly need to divide them at some point. The time to do this is well after they flower but while there is enough foliage left that you know where the bulbs are.

Daffodils "ripen" after flowering, storing starch in their bulbs to provide them with energy to grow next season. When this process is completed, the foliage yellows and pulls off easily

Once the leaves have completely yellowed, the bulbs are ready to dig up. I wash the dirt from the bulbs with a hose. Freeing them this way enables you to easily break apart the bulbs in the clump without too much damage to the roots, which are usually entwined.

Once the bulbs are clean, put each variety or cultivar into its own mesh bag for storage until fall planting, or replant them right away in the garden. Most large daffodil bulbs should be planted 8 inches deep. The very small bulbs of the miniature species should be planted more shallowly. A general rule of thumb is to make the planting depths equal to three times the circumference of the bulb.

I fertilize again when the green tips first appear in spring. I apply a tablespoon of 5-10-5 granular fertilizer to each clump or dig some dried manure into the top inch or two of soil. As spring progresses, my daffodils come into full flower and are stronger than ever after being dug and divided.

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