A Beginner’s Guide To The Different Types Of Daffodils

Next week, I’ll be planting my daffodils in what has become for me an annual tradition. Why, you may ask, since they multiply so quickly? Well nowadays, daffodils come in an astonishing array of colors, shapes and sizes. So each year, I add a few more varieties to my garden, while savoring the list of further possibilities. 

WHY WE LOVE THEM

Botanically speaking, they’re known as narcissus, but most of us refer to these beautiful spring flowers as daffodils. It may surprise you to learn that the name daffodil is a derivative of asphodel. In Greek mythology, asphodels are said to carpet the Elysian Fields of the afterlife. No one knows, though, how or why the initial ‘D’ was added.

The real asphodel, however, is a mortal flower. Although it shares the daffodil’s linear, grassy green leaves, its flower stalks are much taller, often reaching 3 to 4 feet. And it doesn’t bloom in early spring, but in May through June.

asphodel

A bog asphodel

The word narcissus, on the other hand, is generally believed to be derived from the Greek narke, meaning ‘sleep or numbness,’ which is also the root of narcotic. This may be due to its intoxicating fragrance, although others associate narke with the toxicity of the plant’s bulbs and flowers. The exact origin of the name, however, is unknown. 

Daffodils in early spring

That being said, the appeal of the daffodil for most lies not in its name, but in the flower’s many forms, its fragrance and quite possibly the color yellow. Sunny and bright, yellow represents happiness and renewal. Still, the traditional flower is only one in an expanding array of cultivars now available to the consumer. See below if your garden wouldn’t benefit from one or more of these spectacular types of daffodils. 

THE 13 MAIN TYPES OF DAFFODILS

Depending on who you talk to, there are currently between 40 and 200 different daffodil species and over 32,000 registered cultivars.  For horticultural purposes, all narcissus are split into 13 divisions. The list of divisions is known as the Official Classification System and it categorizes daffodils depending on the size and shape of their cups as compared to their petals.

Here’s a rundown of the divisions and links to some of the standout varieties in each one. 

DIVISION 1: TRUMPET

Characterized by large blooms and only one flower to a stem, these cultivars have trumpets that are as long or longer than their petals. Some of the earliest to bloom, trumpet daffodils come in a wide variety of shapes and colors including Mount Hood, King Alfred and 4U2.

Trumpet daffodil ‘King Alfred’

DIVISION 2: LARGE-CUPPED

These cultivars have cups that are more than one third, but less than equal to the length of their petals. Each stem bears a single flower. Large-cupped daffodils come in a wide range of colors and have flat, ruffled or trumpet-like shapes. Great varieties include: Salome, Ice Follies and the exquisite, soft yellow Day Dream.

Large-cupped daffodil ‘Salome’

DIVISION 3: SMALL-CUPPED 

These daffodils have cups that are not more than one third the length of their petals. Each stem carries one medium-sized flower. Popular selections include the exquisitely-shaped Eleanor Auchincloss, Ringtone and Barrett Browning.

Small-cupped daffodil ‘Barrett Browning’

DIVISION 4: DOUBLES

Not everyone’s a fan of these unusually-shaped flowers with their frilly rows of petals that resemble carnations. Nevertheless, these types of daffodils have a sweet fragrance and look great under flowering shrubs and trees. Each produces one or more blooms to a stem. Try pink and white Replete, tropical-colored Tahiti or soft pink Angélique.

Double daffodil ‘Tahiti’

DIVISION 5: TRIANDRUS 

Tiny and low-growing, these daffodils have petals that flare back and droop downwards, like columbines. Triandrus daffodils prefer wetter conditions and produce 2 or more pendent flowers to a stem. Great varieties include: the dainty white Thalia, soft yellow ‘Angel’s Breath‘ and bright yellow Hawera.

Triandrus daffodil ‘Thalia’

DIVISION 6: CYCLAMINEUS 

Cyclamineus daffodils have smaller-sized trumpets and petals that flare back from the cup. Prized for their early flowering and diminutive size, they’re perfect for naturalizing in large masses. Great varieties include: Wisley, Peeping Tom and February Gold.

Cylcamineus daffodil ‘February Gold’

DIVISION 7: JONQUILS 

Instead of the flat leaves found in most daffodils, jonquils have dark green, tube-shaped leaves that resemble rushes. Strongly fragrant, they feature 3 or more small blooms to a stem. Although they are traditionally yellow, jonquils are also now available in white/yellow combinations. Great for naturalizing. Try Pueblo or Bell Song.

Yellow jonquil daffodils

DIVISION 8: TAZETTAS 

Producing fragrant clusters of up to 20 flowers to a stem, tazetta daffodils are prized for their strong scent and heavy flower bearing. Great varieties include Geranium, Grand Primo and one of my personal favorites, Minnow.

Tazetta daffodil ‘Minnow’

DIVISION 9: POETICUS  

It doesn’t get cuter than this! Also known as Pheasant’s Eye, Poet’s daffodils have very shallow, red-rimmed cups that look like an eye, especially when silhouetted against their bright white petals. One flower to a stem. Poeticus are one of the latest types of daffodils to flower. Great varieties include: Actaea and Recurvus.

White Poet’s daffodil

DIVISION 10: BULBOCODIUM 

Also known as Petticoat daffodils for their lampshade-shaped cups, bulbocodiums grow to just 4 to 6 inches. The smallest of all the narcissus, the species is unusual in that its trumpet is exceptionally large in relation to its petals. Check out Yellow Hoop and Spoirot.

Yellow ‘Petticoat’ daffodils

DIVISION 11: SPLIT-CUPPED 

Also called Butterfly daffodil, split-cupped daffodils have cups that splay out, which makes them appear as if they have another ring of petals. 

Look for Apricot Whirl, Lemon Beauty and tiny coral-pink Shrike.

Split-cupped daffodil

DIVISION 12: MISCELLANEOUS OR OTHER TYPES OF DAFFODILS

This division Includes all those daffodils that don’t fall into the above classifications. Many are natural species’ variants and hybrids.

Mesa Verde daffodil at the RHS SHow

Mesa Verde, a new cultivar developed in California by Bob Spott/Photo: RHS Flower Show

Division 13: SPECIES DISTINGUISHED BY BOTANICAL NAMES 

Often left off of other lists, according to The Daffodil Society this division is nonetheless a part of the official daffodil classification system.

THE BEST WAY TO PLANT ALL TYPES OF DAFFODILS

I realize that for we East Coasters, time is running out for planting spring bulbs. However, many parts of the country still have ample time to get some of these great cultivars in the ground before frost. All varieties need to be planted sometime in the fall before the ground freezes.

Plant your bulbs with the pointy end up and the flat end down. And make sure the hole is twice as deep as the size of the bulb. Back fill with soil and water well. 

Once planted, all daffodil varieties are maintenance free and will naturalize year after year. Deer won’t touch them (due to the above-mentioned toxic properties.) Just make sure to respect your bulb’s requirements. They’ll flower best in full sun, but will tolerate part shade. And in my experience, they do fine in deciduous woodlands.

While there are many theories on when to remove the leaves, I ascribe to the one that advocates leaving the leaves on for about 6 weeks after blooms until they yellow. This allows the plant to absorb energy from sunlight which it redirects back down into the bulb to feed next year’s flowers.

Bulbs coming up too early? Check out my post, What To Do If Your Spring Bulbs Come Up Too Early.

 

Drink To Your Health With These 10 Best Medicinal Teas

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Now that temperatures are dropping and we’re spending more time indoors, almost nothing beats a cup of freshly brewed hot tea. And aside from the warm and cozy feeling a steaming mug evokes, tea has never looked better. That’s because many ‘true’ and herbal teas are packed with powerful antioxidants and other substances that are great for human health. So before reaching for a pill, why not explore the benefits of medicinal tea?

TRUE TEA COMES FROM THE SHRUB CAMELLIA SINENSIS

It may surprise you to learn that ‘true’ tea comes from the leaves and buds of a single shrub called Camellia sinensis. This plant produces all six types of tea – black, green, yellow, oolong, white and pu-erh. The difference between them is the degree to which their leaves are processed. 

Green tea, for instance, is made from the plant’s unwilted and unfermented leaves. Black tea, on the other hand, is produced from leaves that are wilted and fully fermented. And white tea is made from the shrub’s young new leaves and buds that are hardly processed at all.

Tea farm in Asia. Photo: News of Asia/Shutterstock.com

Tea farm in Asia

These days, herbal teas tend to get all the attention when it comes to medicinal teas. Yet, ‘true’ teas contain thousands of naturally-occurring chemical compounds that offer a variety of health benefits. Of all of these compounds, the largest group are polyphenols. In nature, these micronutrients defend Camellia sinensis against insects and other pathogens. And in the human world, they offer protection against illnesses as well. 

camellia sinensis

Camellia sinensis

In fact, a growing body of research indicates that polyphenols not only act as antioxidants, but also protect cells from free radicals that can damage the body. Studies show that polyphenols found in black and green tea, especially, can improve human resistance to a variety of degenerative illnesses, including cancer and cardiovascular disease.

HERBAL TEA IS MADE FROM HERBS, NOT TEA

Herbal tea, by contrast, does not come from Camellia sinensis. Rather, it is made from the dried leaves, seeds, roots or flowers of an edible plant, or herb. Herbal teas include chamomile, peppermint, ginger, hibiscus and rooibus, among others.

camomille flowers

Chamomile flowers

Like true teas, herbal teas contain antioxidants and other chemical compounds that are beneficial to human health. However, the effects of each can differ from person to person. For this reason, it’s important to read the ingredients carefully in case of allergy to the herb or similar plants.

Herbal tea made from fireweed

Herbal tea made from fireweed plant

Whichever kind of tea you choose to brew, make sure to steep the the leaves long enough to maximize the benefits; a recommended 5 to 10 minutes. Covering the teapot with a lid or placing a saucer over a mug helps keep the volatile oils in the tea instead of allowing them to escape into the atmosphere.

TOP MEDICINAL TEAS (TRUE AND HERBAL)

Here are eight medicinal teas with a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and helping to prevent disease. All you need to to do is add boiling water.

1. BLACK TEA

The most popular tea among Americans, black tea also contains the most caffeine. This is due to its extended period of fermentation during processing.

Both black and green tea contain an alkaloid called theophylline, which has been shown to increase blood flow and also help maintain a healthy blood pressure. And according to one UCLA study, drinking at least three cups of black tea a day may significantly reduce your risk of stroke.

2. PU-ERH TEA 

Pu-erh tea is a type of black tea that has been fermented and aged through a special process. Darker than what most of us in the West know as black tea, it is made from a larger-leaved variety of Camellia sinensis. Pu-erh is post-fermented, meaning it goes through the fermentation process after its leaves have been dried and rolled. This allows them to age like fine wines, with some teas known to last more than 50 years. (Compare that to the shelf life of green tea, which is about one year.)

pureh tea

Moreover, this post-fermentation process gives pu-erh a unique flavor and texture. Not only has this medicinal tea been shown to lower cholesterol levels, but it also may boost blood flow and improve overall circulation. A study published in the journal “Experimental Gerontology” in 2009 found that rats saw a profound reduction in LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, and an increase in “good” HDL cholesterol after consuming pu-erh tea.

3. GREEN TEA 

Since it is made from the unfermented leaves of Camellia sinensis, green tea reportedly has one of the highest concentrations of antioxidants.

In fact, studies show that the high antioxidant and nutrient content of green tea can have powerful effects on the body, including reducing the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol. Green tea has also been shown to boost metabolic rate and lower blood sugar.

green tea

Some research indicates that catechins found in green tea can also kill bacteria and fight viruses like influenza. And, the slightly-bitter tasting brew has a high fluoride content, which may help prevent tooth decay.

4. PEPPERMINT TEA

This classic mint tea with antispasmodic properties is great for those suffering from certain kinds of gastrointestinal problems. That’s because peppermint has been shown to calm and relax the muscles of the stomach, providing soothing relief from pain caused by bloating, gas and diarrhea. Menthol (the main constituent of peppermint) is also effective as a decongestant, thinning mucus to break up coughs and soothing sore throats.

peppermint tea

Peppermint tea with peppermint plant

That being said, do not drink peppermint tea if you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Peppermint can relax the sphincter between the stomach and esophagus, which may allow stomach acids to flow back up into the esophagus.

5. GINGER TEA

Another powerful medicinal tea for the treatment of gastrointestinal problems, ginger gets the digestive juices flowing, providing relief from nausea and occasional indigestion. Its warming, spicy flavor helps to promote healthy digestion, enabling the body to better absorb nutrients.

ginger tea

Ginger tea

6. HIBISCUS TEA

Made from the leaves of the hibiscus flower, hibiscus tea is high in vitamin C and organic acids, which is a great way to strengthen the immune system. Moreover, some researchers believe that chemical compounds found in the magenta-colored tea may also lower blood pressure as effectively as some standard blood-pressure medications.

hibiscus tea

Hibiscus tea

Hibiscus’ diuretic properties can also help treat fluid retention, stomach irritation inflammation and other types of circulation disorders in the body.

7. LEMON BALM TEA

A perennial herb belonging to the mint family, lemon balm has served for generations as a medicinal tea to treat indigestion, sleep disorders, anxiety and wounds. The slightly lemon-scented herb is a common additive to peppermint tea.

lemon balm tea

Lemon balm contains naturally occurring chemical compounds that have a mild sedative or calming effect on the body. In addition to helping to reduce anxiety, induce sleep and improve mood, the herb has been shown to improve mental performance in some limited studies. 

8. CHAMOMILE TEA

Used for centuries for its medicinal properties, chamomile is a flowering herb in the daisy family. Its primary constituent is bisabolol, a colorless, viscous oil known to have anti-irritant, anti-inflammatory and microbial properties. 

chamomile tea

Chamomile can be used topically or orally to treat upset stomach and abdominal cramping. And its anti-inflammatory properties make it great for relieving irritation from chest colds and other skin conditions.  

A note of caution for ragweed sufferers: the pollen in chamomile is similar and may produce an allergic reaction.

9. ROOIBOS TEA

A member of the legume family, rooibos has been used for generations in southern Africa where it is also referred to as bush tea. Its reddish, needle like leaves are packed with polyphenols, which as I mentioned above, are great for improving health and boosting immunity.

rooibos tea

Relatively unknown in the U.S., rooibos tea’s many health benefits come from its high antioxidant content that some say is even greater than that of green tea. Two powerful flavonoids that may lower cortisol levels make rooibos great at reducing stress, relieving headache and promoting restful sleep. It also can ease stomach cramping. In Africa, it is sometimes used as a substitute for milk with colicky babies.

10. SAGE TEA

Sage tea is made from the leaves of the sage plant, Salvia officinalis. In addition to its culinary properties, it has high concentrations of vitamins A, C, B and E. For this reason, it has been traditionally used to relieve such common ailments as sore throat, cough, colds and digestive problems. 

sage tea

But perhaps the best known use for sage tea is to relieve menopause symptoms. Studies have shown that women who drink this medicinal tea on a regular basis show a definitive drop in hot flashes. A word of caution, however. Sage contains a volatile chemical compound called thujone that can be harmful to human health if consumed in large quantities. 

 

 

Lespedeza: The Best Fall-Flowering Shrub You’ve Never Heard Of

lespedeza thunbergii

Lespedeza thunbergii

Lespedeza. Judging by the sound of it, you’d think it was an island off the coast of Italy. And the plant that bears its name certainly looks Mediterranean. Yet, I had never heard of this magnificent, fall-blooming shrub until a client of mine showed me a pair in her garden. Here’s why I’ve been a fan ever since.

SOME BLACK SHEEP IN THE FAMILY

It turns out that while I may have been uninformed, the genus lespedeza has quite a reputation. A member of the pea family, it comprises over 40 flowering plant species. These include shrubs and trailing vines, some of which are grown as ornamental plants and others for forage or to prevent erosion. But some species exhibit some downright deviant behavior.

Take for example Lespedeza striata, commonly known as Japanese clover. A ground-hugging annual, it forms dinner-plate size patches of dark green leaves with wiry stems. In late summer it produces a mass of tiny pink flowers. The downside is it also delights in choking out turf.

lespedeza striata

Lespedeza striata, commonly known as Japanese clover

Then there’s Lespedeza cuneata, an extremely aggressive warm-season perennial. Also known as Chinese bush clover, it was brought to the United States from Asia in the late 1800s to prevent erosion. However, it rapidly began invading open spaces, out-competing native vegetation. Now the upright, gray-green shrub with cream flowers is classified as an invasive weed in the Midwest and eastern United States.

lespedeza cuneata

LESPEDEZA THUNBERGII, THE STAR OF THE GENUS

But, there is a member of the family who is considered the star of the genus. Relatively unknown to the home garden, it is the species Lespedeza thunbergii (also known as bush clover.) Recipient of the Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) Award of Garden Merit, it boasts beautiful blue-green foliage, cascading panicles of rosy-pink flowers and a dramatic fountain-like appearance. 

Moreover, unlike other family members, bush clover sticks to its place. Slowly developing over the summer into a roughly 6-foot mound, this beautiful shrub spends August and September laden with thousands of tiny pink flowers. It’s a burst of color just when you least expect it, and at a time when most other perennials are losing their luster.

DESIGNING WITH LESPEDEZA

Designing with Lespedeza thunbergii offers many opportunities. Given its large size, the shrub is a natural for the back of the border (or used as a specimen.) Although it will tolerate some shade, it flowers best in full sun, where is combines beautifully with other fall-blooming perennials like caryopteris, Russian sage, asters and chrysanthemums.

At my client’s home, we’ve gone for a spring-like approach, pairing her shrubs with ‘Little Lime’ hydrangeas, apricot shrub roses, Icy Pink vinca and the upright swords of bearded iris. Anthony Waterer spirea, Longwood Blue caryopteris and white Japanese anemones provide subtle background color.

september perennial border in virginia

To date, the only other place I’ve found Lespedeza thunbergii is at Maryland’s Brookside Gardens, where last fall, I spied it displayed in one of their formal gardens. Here, their staff paired it with Autumn Joy sedum, giant hyssop, maiden grass, pink anemones and purple top vervain to form a stunning combination.

brookside gardens

Brookside Garden’s fall display 

MAINTAINING LESPEDEZA

Bush clover flowers on new wood, so you can prune it anytime without shaving off next season’s blooms. Most people cut stems to the ground in late winter. It’s astonishing to watch the shrub bounce back over the summer months into a large, bluish-green sphere as big as most men.

Deer resistant and virtually pest and disease-free, bush clover grows in zones 4-8. The roots are winter hardy to USDA zone 6, but expect the top growth to die back during the winter. (For more about the USDA Plant Hardiness Map and how to use it, click here.)

LESPEDEZA OWES ITS NAME TO A TYPO 

Lespedeza owes its name to Vicente Manuel de Céspedes who served as governor of the Spanish province of East Florida from 1784-1790. Céspedes gave botanist André Michaux permission to explore East Florida in search of new species.

Michaux ended up discovering the flowering species, which he named in honor of the governor. Unfortunately, when he published his book in 1802, the name de Céspedes was misspelled as de lespedez. The current botanical name lespedeza allegedly derives from this mistake.

 

The Late-Summer Delights Of Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’

sedum autumn joy in the garden

Are you on the hunt for a dependable plant for your late-summer garden? Look no further than sedum ‘Autumn Joy.’ Come August, its lovely clusters of tiny flowers are just starting to adopt a rosy-pink hue. And best of all, the blooms keep going for weeks, gradually turning a dusty red that’s the perfect compliment to fall. Continue reading

Chesapeake Bay Wildflowers: July’s Top 10 Bloomers

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‘There are always flowers for those who want to see them’ – Henri Matisse

For most of my life, I’ve been more attracted to ornamentals than to wildflowers. Even though I’ve noticed many beautiful species in the landscape, I’ve never really taken the time to observe them. You might say, I’ve been wildflower blind. Continue reading

How To Cope With Boxwood Blight: An Expert Weighs In

It’s not every day you get to discuss your problems with an international expert. But Lynn Batdorf is the real deal. Batdorf is the world’s top resource on everything boxwood, including all of the diseases and pests that affect this diverse species. Recently he spoke to me about how to deal with the latest threat to our gardens, the dreaded boxwood blight. Continue reading

Why Star Magnolia Deserves A Spot In Your Garden

Magnolia stellata, commonly known as Star Magnolia

First introduced from Japan in the 1860s, star magnolia has long been a resident of the American garden. One of the smallest magnolias, it produces a cloud of showy white or pink flowers in early spring. The blossoms appear before the leaves, dangling like fallen stars on the tree’s smooth, bare branches. It’s enough to leave you speechless. Continue reading

The Best Hellebore Varieties For Your Winter/Spring Garden

February can be a bleak time on the East Coast. Days are short and the sky hangs low on the horizon. But there’s a small-sized perennial whose early, colorful blooms never fail to lift my mood. It’s the lovely, cup-shaped flower called hellebore, commonly known as the Lenten Rose. Continue reading

Clear the Air With These 10 No-Fuss Houseplants

Peace lilies can help clear the air of harmful toxins

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans on average spend 90 percent of their time indoors. And indoor environments can be poor, trapping dangerous chemical toxins as well as bacteria, pollens and mold. Continue reading

New Hybrids Promise To Rock Your Poinsettia World

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New hybrids are changing the poinsettia world

December 12 is National Poinsettia Day, the day Americans honor the plant that has become a symbol of the holiday season. And while not everyone’s a fan, it’s hard not to marvel at the species’ growing popularity. Continue reading