April 2021: Daffodils, Amaryllidaceae Narcissus
Daffodils brighten our spirits when colored blooms are few and far between. “Daffodil” is one common name for flowers in the Amaryllidaceae family, Narcissus genus. Paperwhites, N. papyraceus, commonly forced indoors in winter, are also a member of this genus. There are many other Narcissus species in a wide range of sizes and colors. Most are fragrant.
Plant daffodil bulbs in October or November, three times deeper than the size of the bulb— plant a 2-inch bulb 6 inches deep. They look best grown in clusters, not rows. Bulbs need adequate moisture with good drainage and full sun during their growing season. You can plant them around deciduous trees as they will form leaves and bloom before the tree leaves emerge. With luck, daffodils will multiply and naturalize.
Most daffodils bloom for 2 to 3 weeks from late winter to late spring, depending on the variety—a few species actually bloom in the fall! After the blooms fade, remove the flower stalk if you want to prevent seed formation, but don’t cut back the foliage until after the leaves have yellowed. Daffodil bulbs are mildly poisonous and, unlike tulips, are not usually eaten by squirrels or other critters.
Come enjoy the display of daffodils and other spring-flowering bulbs in the Cottage and Rose Gardens at The Learning Garden.
For more information on daffodils, check out the NCSU Plant Toolbox—Narcissus.
And watch this short video created by Elisabeth Meyer for “Edibles, Bulbs, and Houseplants,” a plant identification course offered in partnership with Longwood Gardens.
March 2021: Hinoki Cypress, Chamaecyparis obtusa
This diverse family of evergreens provides structure, winter interest, and form to gardens, especially in the winter. Several dwarf forms are featured at The Learning Garden.
‘Limerick’ will grow about a half-inch a year, maturing to 5 feet, and can be grown in full sun or partial shade. If grown in full sun, the foliage will be a brighter yellow than if grown in partial shade. Like other members of its family, ‘Limerick’ prefers a moist but well-drained soil and an acidic pH (between 5 and 6). It is drought tolerant once established and after the first year should only need extra water during prolonged heat and drought.
‘Chirimen,’ grown for its unusual form and crinkled foliage, likes the same growing conditions. It will grow to 4-6 feet after 10 years. You can see hinoki cypresses ‘Limerick’ and ‘Chirimen’ in the Sun and Shade Garden at The Learning Garden.
For more detailed information on hinoki cypress, Chamaecyparis obtusa, check out the NCSU Plant Toolbox – Chamaecyparis obtusa.
Bloodtwig Dogwood, Cornus sanguinea
The Dogwood family is large and includes shrubs as well as trees. Many of the shrubs, like Bloodtwig Dogwood, have strikingly colored stems and add color and interest to the winter garden. Bloodtwig Dogwood prefers partial shade and well-drained soil. It spreads through suckers and is best where it can form a hedge or mass planting. It is easy to transplant.
The beautiful red color is most striking on new canes so pruning is recommended. Pruning will also keep this shrub at a reasonable size. You should prune in February or March before new growth begins.
Bloodtwig Dogwood has red colored canes in winter, clusters of small white flowers in late spring followed by red or purple berries enjoyed by birds. You can see Bloodtwig Dogwood in the Four Seasons Garden at The Learning Garden.
For more detailed information on Bloodtwig Dogwood, Cornus sanguinea, check out the
NCSU Plant Toolbox – Bloodtwig Dogwood.
January 2021: Switchgrass, Panicum virgatum
We usually think of grasses as being useful additions to our gardens during the growing months, but winter grasses can add interest to the winter garden if left uncut. In addition, the seeds provide food for birds while the dry stems provide cover and shelter for birds and small animals.
Switchgrass is native to much of the United States and is a common tall prairie grass. It is easy to grow and adaptable to many habitats. It is not fussy about soil or water and likes sun to partial sun. Switchgrass is perennial and self-seeding. It is the host plant for several varieties of moths and butterflies.
The Four Seasons Garden has Switchgrass for you to see.
For more detailed information about Switchgrass, Panicum virgatum check out the NCSU Plant Toolbox – Switchgrass