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Celebrating National Gardening Day April 14, 2020

Queen Bee cell - Bellefontaine Cemetery and Arboretum

It’s National Gardening Day!

Our Daffodils: an inside look at BCA’s planting scheme and tips to create your very own daffodil display.

Bellefontaine Cemetery and Arboretum has a growing reputation for its impressive daffodil collections and displays over the last several years. With an estimated 250,000 bulbs planted on the property, this creates a beautiful spring show typically lasting from March to early April. Through careful planning and layout, any gardener can easily achieve a comparable result. Here are a few tips to consider when crafting a naturalistic bulb display.

There are many fantastic spring bulb species with a diverse array of bloom sequence, colors, and unique shapes. Crocuses, tulips, hyacinths, and more, there are just so many species with endless selections available, sometimes this can seem overwhelming. But let’s look at daffodils for a minute. Daffodils are commonly used for naturalized planting beds because they look magnificent, perform well, and are much lower maintenance than many other species. They do not need to be divided like many other bulb species. Many of the less aggressive varieties do much better in these conditions, so stay away from the tall fast-spreading varieties.

Daffodils can be planted within a garden bed to naturalize with other perennials and groundcovers; they can also be rotated as annuals in containers. Many gardeners don’t consider planting daffodils straight into the lawn. However, this unconventional gardening technique provides a relatively low maintenance way to bring more color and interest to an otherwise ordinary lawn area. Bellefontaine’s vast array of daffodils are displayed in this manner. Planted lawn areas are cleared of leaves in the winter, left untouched during the spring to complete the flowering cycle. These areas are then left unmown long enough for the plant to capture and store enough energy for next year’s growth. This phase typically lasts about four to six weeks after the blooms fade. By this time, grass has grown tall in these areas mixing with the daffodil foliage, giving it a brief untidy appearance that is necessary for the plant’s health. Eventually, the daffodils’ foliage begins to brown as they enter their dormancy period. When fully dormant, these areas can then be mown over returning to turfgrass for the remainder of the spring and summer. Repeat next year.

If you are interested in creating some naturalized beds or a bulb meadow, consider planning now for next year’s display. When planning out the overall shape, consider curvilinear sweeping natural forms that can easily be mown around to keep a neat, tidy appearance. It will simplify maintenance and make the display pop out a bit more. Daffodils should be planted in the fall to early winter, spacing around nine to twelve inches apart. To extend the blooming season, consider blending early, mid, and late-season varieties.

Daffodils at Bellefontaine Cemetery and Arboretum
The majority of the bulb plantings have been done around the ‘white line’ tour route to enhance this often-traveled scenic walk or drive. A diverse array of varieties makes up this display with early-season, mid-season, and late-season blooming varieties to extend the overall bloom sequence.

For more daffodil planting tips check out the American Daffodil Societies website at https://daffodilusa.org/.

Bellefontaine Cemetery and Arboretum is an approved American Daffodil Society display garden https://daffodilusa.org/about-ads/display-garden-program/approved-display-gardens/.

This site is a reputable daffodil search website and gives you information when the bulb was registered, the year with accurate photos: https://daffseek.org/.

These two sites are great resources to purchase bulbs from, with unique varieties not found at typical big box stores:
https://www.brentandbeckysbulbs.com/ and https://www.brecks.com/

Daffodils overlooking a lake at Bellefontaine Cemetery and Arboretum
Bulbs are naturalized to create mass displays that can be seen from afar, like across hillsides and ponds, to create vast color swaths.

To become a volunteer, complete this Volunteer Application and email it to Dan Fuller or call (314)-381-0750, ext. 202 for more information. Applications may also be faxed to 314-381-0751.

BCA is a Level II Accredited Arboretum and is listed in the Morton Register of Arboreta. BCA is one of only two accredited arboreta in the city of St. Louis.

We invite you to take a tour of Bellefontaine Cemetery and Arboretum (BCA) and see our beautiful grounds. BCA’s grounds are home to an international variety of meticulously cared-for trees and shrubs, providing a changing landscape every season. Until the mid-twentieth century, Bellefontaine Cemetery was home to a greater variety of trees than the Missouri Botanical Garden. Today, more than 1,100 shrubs and over 5,000 trees represent over 200 distinct varieties.

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