2013-10-10 / Front Page

Citywide Beautification Project Begins with Daffodils

By Lynne Tungett

After about five years bulbs should be dug up and divided to keep the daffodil population under control. After about five years bulbs should be dug up and divided to keep the daffodil population under control. “Newporters are literally going ‘daffy’ over this project,” John Hirschboeck says of the upcoming million daffodil bulb planting effort. “So far we have raised more than $10,000 in ‘Daffodillion’ donations.”

In honor of Newport’s 375th anniversary in 2014, the Daffodillion project aims to plant one million bulbs so the city is alive and vibrant with color for spring festivities. Funds raised thus far will purchase about 75,000 bulbs.

Daffodillion was announced at a Scenic America meeting at Ron Fleming’s home in early September. Fleming, who is the chairman of the national organization, is hoping his city is up to the daunting task.

In just a little more than a month, Salve Regina University has become involved, Fort Adams, the Seaside Garden Club, Rhode Island Bridge and Turnpike Authority, neighborhood groups, the schools, numerous private individuals, and of course the city. The list keeps growing, notes Hirschboeck, a member of the Cliff Walk Commission and vice-president of Alliance for Livable Newport, two of the other organizations at the heart of the project.

Newport begins its 375th anniversary with a citywide daffodil planting project. Newport begins its 375th anniversary with a citywide daffodil planting project. The daffodil campaign kicks off on Saturday, Oct. 19 at Easton’s Beach when volunteers will pass out free packets (while supplies last) in the parking lot from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Newport residents, businesses and groups who want to plant them should go to daffodillion.com and download the pledge note that says, “I commit to plant my free daffodils.”

The following week, Scott Wheeler, the city’s Director of Public Services, and his crews will manage the plantings on the Cliff Walk behind McCauley Hall and The Breakers on Oct. 25. Then, a public planting of 26,000 bulbs is planned for Nov. 2 by the Rhode Island Bridge and Turnpike Authority. Prospective planters are asked to meet in the grassy median off Farewell Street and wear gloves and sturdy gardening shoes. An exact location with a Google link is on daffodillion.com.

Councilors Kate Leonard and Naomi Neville, with Wheeler’s assistance, are coordinating the plantings at Rogers High School and the Pell School. To volunteer, visit the website.

About Planting Daffodil Bulbs

During the summer months, daffodils are dormant and they need the winter cold to break them out of the dormancy. In New England, the best time to plant daffodil bulbs is in September and October. This gives the bulbs enough opportunity to get their roots established in the soil before the cold winter freeze sets in.

Prepare a site that is sunny with well-drained soil. They do well in most soil types, but the earth under the bulb should be loosened to encourage root development. Hillsides and raised beds are best, with drainage being key.

The hole should be dug to a depth that is roughly three to four times the circumference of the bulb, or four to eight inches. Calculate the depth from the top of the bulb when it is placed, not from the bottom of the hole. Be sure to plant the bulb with the pointed end up, round base side down, then cover with soil, firmly pressing the soil around the base. The idea is to firmly and totally encase the bulb in soil and prevent any air pockets from forming that might cause the roots to dry out.

Once the bulb is entirely covered, water generously to eradicate air pockets and add mulch on top if desired. The mulch will protect the bulb as it winters over. It will also decompose and feed the soil. Daffodil bulbs require a lot of water in the fall.

The bulbs ideally should be planted about three-six inches apart. But, depending on the effect you wish to create, they can be planted in clusters for a bou- quet-type look, or, in a single row or multiple rows for a more formal appearance. If you plant them in a row, it is easier to dig one long trench and set the bulbs inside about six inches apart and cover them all at once.

Daffodils make an ideal border for your garden and are very attractive around the base of a tree. Bulbs can also be planted in bare spots here and there to fill out the garden.

According to the American Daffodil Society, you should leave daffodils in the ground for no more than five years. As the daffodils come back every spring, they will naturally spread and new seedlings will sprout and eventually take over the garden. After about five years, the bulbs should be dug up and divided to keep the daffodil population under control. If blooming does not happen one season, it would be best to move them to a new location. The Society also advises that after blooming, never cut the foliage until it begins to yellow, usually in late May or June.

Enhance the soil according to the type in your garden, striving to achieve a slightly acidic soil. Add compost or planting mix to clay soil. Add sulfur to alkaline soil. Finish planting by adding a fertilizer; 5-10-5 (nitrogen-phosphoruspotassium) is a good choice. Add an additional fertilizer, 0-0-50 or 0-10-10, when the plant blooms. Water the plant thoroughly. Maintain a strict watering regimen for at least the first three weeks after the plant blooms.

Return to top