Daffodils at Shaw Nature Reserve

There are literally thousands of daffodils blooming around the Shaw Nature Reserve's Pinetum Lake and the one-mile road encircling it beginning in late March/early April each year. Although known by many names (daffodil, jonquil, narcissus, paper-whites), all are members of the genus Narcissus. Many varieties of Narcissi have been accumulating around the Pinetum Lake for the biggest part of the 79 years the Reserve has been in existence. 

Daffodils got their start at the Nature Reserve through the efforts of Mr. John Rowe who lived and farmed close to the town of Pacific, Missouri. He was an amateur propagator of daffodils as well as of nuts, fruits, vegetables, and other flowering bulbs. Mr. Howe brought a bushel of daffodil bulbs to the Reserve to share during its fledgling years when the earliest planting was being done. Upon seeing Mr. Rowe's basket of bulbs, Dr. Edgar Anderson, then Curator of Useful Plants at Missouri Botanical Garden, wanted to know who produced these masterpieces of horticulture?

Dr. Anderson had the bulbs planted around Pinetum Lake where they are still the core of the naturalized bulb plantings at Shaw Nature Reserve. Although John Howe was an amateur gardener without formal horticultural training, learned gardeners, botanists, and directors of famous botanical institutions contacted him to see his collections and to ask his advice.

Dr. Anderson was especially fond of daffodils and devoted much time and energy to both the Botanical Garden's and the Shaw Nature Reserve's collections. Fortunately he had plenty of narcissi or daffodils to work with. At regular intervals after Mr. Howe's bulbs were first put in place, many additional cultivars and varieties of narcissus were planted at Shaw Nature Reserve. The plantings were carefully studied, especially during the period 1938 and 1942. The goal was to have a continuous display of color lasting for a full two months using a mixture of early to late blooming varieties.

The early varieties tend to be bright yellow with long trumpets, while the later ones are white, with wide, flat blossoms. In subsequent years the daffodils at Shaw Nature Reserve have been, for the most part, undisturbed and have continued to multiply. Additional bulbs are periodically planted adding to the already extensive collection.

Tips for Growing Daffodils

PURCHASING BULBS

  • Bulbs can be purchased in late summer at most nurseries and lawn and garden centers, by mail from specialty bulb growers, or over the internet.
  • The Greater Saint Louis Daffodil Society has an annual sale of specialty daffodils at the Missouri Botanical Garden in October.

WHEN TO PLANT

  •  Late September through early November is best; however as long as the ground is not frozen they can be planted throughout winter.

WHERE TO PLANT

  • They prefer deep, loamy, well-drained soil, but will tolerate heavier soils so long as the soil does not retain water.
  • They like a sunny area, but also work well in deciduous wooded areas that are mostly leafless during the daffodil’s spring growth.

HOW TO PLANT

  • There are numerous bulb planting devices on the market, but a shovel will work if you are planting a small number of bulbs and are not too worried about digging holes in your yard.
  • Plant to a depth three times their diameter deep, or for a more general rule, 6-8” deep for all daffodils.

MAINTENANCE

  • Cut or mow after the foliage begins to turn yellow and goes limp, or wait at least five-six weeks after the flowering has ceased.
  • Removing foliage any sooner greatly depletes the nutrient intake for future flowering and long term perennialization.
  • If possible, leave the foliage alone and let it die back completely before removal.

BENEFITS

  • They're easy!
  • They look lovely in a naturalized setting, and are the longest-lived perennial bulbs in our region.
  • Squirrels, other rodents, and deer do not like them.

SELECTION

  • Daffodils are divided into thirteen different divisions, according to their physical characteristics, and each division has numerous colorful selections providing the home garden with unlimited possibilities.
  • For the longest floral interest, choose varieties from multiple divisions spanning very early through very late blooming seasons; with the right selection, daffodils will provide flowering interest for up to three months.
Daffodil Fun Facts

The daffodil is...

  • in the Amaryllis family.
  • the national flower of Wales.
  • the birthflower of March
  • undisturbed by squirrels, moles, voles, deer, and almost all pests, due to toxic (and distasteful) alkaloids.