It may seem unseasonal to post pictures of daffodils in the autumn, but far from it: if you live in the northern hemisphere, this is a great time to plant bulbs for flowers next spring. Meanwhile, the gardens of my Australian blogging buddies seem to be full of life all of a sudden, so I imagine it’s daffodil season there.
Either way, I’d only need the flimsiest of excuses to belatedly share pictures from our visit to Brent and Becky Heath, including some taken in their private garden, trial grounds and growing fields. I’m not a daffodil expert so please don’t ask me for their names!
We were lucky to be able to visit at the perfect time during the Gloucester Daffodil Festival in April when the daffodils were at their peak. The Bulb Shoppe display was in tip top condition, giving visitors chance to quickly compare and contrast bulbs in flower. We welcomed the opportunity to visit the National Daffodil Convention in nearby Williamsburg as guests for their formal dinner: if you love daffodils, you’ll get a lot of enjoyment from joining this bright, passionate group of people.
Many American gardeners will need no introduction to the owners of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, a 3rd/4th generation business. Overseas gardeners will. They are plant breeders; hands-on managers of their highly regarded mail order and retail business; they design, plant and maintain display gardens open to the public and somehow find time to be educators and authors. Both are members of the Garden Writers of America’s Hall of Fame: not an award given lightly.
Setting their credentials aside, Brent and Becky are first and foremost warm, welcoming people who care about others. My lifetime store of hugs and cuddles has increased considerably since meeting this couple – having said that, the GWA in general has done a lot for that!
Brent and Becky have gardening in their DNA: they’re plant lovers, enthusiasts. I don’t always need to care about whatever it is that makes people glow with enthusiasm to bask in the crepuscular rays that always attend that particular type of happiness; to enjoy watching people’s faces as they talk about the things they love. In this case, I do share their passion for gardening, so it was a joy to be free to wander through their collection of bulbs, spring ephemerals, flowering trees and shrubs. I imagine my face was a picture too as we toured their themed display and teaching gardens in bright sunlight, then went on to their private garden and growing fields for more.
It was lucky we did: next morning it was raining. A Robert Loveman poem (which inspired the Al Jolson song, April Showers) came to mind:
It is not raining rain for me,
It’s raining daffodils;
In every dimpled drop I see
Wild flowers on the hills.
Highlights in the thoughtful companion planting included narcissus ‘Pink Charm’ with peach coloured flowering quince: that’s my idea of charming. I’m pairing it here with a completely different red quince and yellow daffodil combination taken in their friend and customer’s lovely garden a short drive away.
I’d not have expected these two plants to be such great soil mates: from now on, a bare patch of earth around a quince will seem like a missed opportunity to plant daffodils.
The great advantage of a broad collection is that it has room for plants that prefer different garden conditions. I found myself drawn to the miniatures and small daffodils, some enjoying the drainage on an open rockery, others at home in the dappled shade at the edge of woodland.
Beauties amongst the doubles included flowers with demure ruffles and blowsy petticoats.
You may know of my weakness for all types of double flowers, but in a field of daffodils, it’s the ones with classic trumpets that seem most uplifting – literally. It’s no wonder we see these plants lured out by warmer soil and lengthening days as beacons of spring.
Felder and Becky pose for the camera with a posy of daffodils picked so we could admire them at close quarters (I hadn’t realized how intensely fragrant some daffodils are) while Brent gathers an armful of fresh lettuce for our supper.
Brent’s a big collector. Not just of bulbs, but also natural history objects: shells, rocks, feathers – almost any small natural treasure you can imagine finds a home in his home. He passes on his interest by giving each child who visits the chance to choose something to take home. We were granted honourary child status for long enough to select a shell. Mine was an delicate pink one, my companion’s rapidly became a handy suitcase for passalong plants.
We watched an eagle fighting an osprey high above the flower fields for its catch – a fish snatched from the nearby stream. I do have a few more pictures to share in a later post, but sadly not one of that wild moment! Brent and Becky’s gardeners’ blessing: ‘may your garden overflow with smiles’ seemed very appropriate.
As we wound down the long drive, through golden, gleaming fields of flowers, my sweetheart dreamily observed ‘It’s nice to have that many daffodils.’ That pretty much said it all.
Links and contact details
Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, 7900 Daffodil Lane, Gloucester VA23061