Churchyard Nature Note with Andrew Tompsett

April 2017

Farewell to the daffodils

As the daffodil season hastens to its close we are left with the memory of the brilliant display which we welcomed so joyously when spring first began. In January the few early blooms of the first varieties were thrilling and then February and March saw the full extravagant blossoming in garden, churchyard and field.

The churchyard has looked brilliant this year and, apart from restraining the brambles from the designated shrubby areas, nothing else is needed to allow the daffodils to thrive and increase. The preservation of open spaces is important for the sequence of snowdrops, daffodils and bluebells to be followed later by a riot of wildflowers.

During April and May many of the early daffodils will begin their foliage die-back, apart from the very late varieties which include the so- called ‘Poet’s’ or ‘Old Pheasant’s Eye’. Mowing-off is something which is best delayed until June when deep inside the bulb the miniature flowers intended for 2018 will start their development.

The daffodil fields which surround us in Illogan will begin to look untidy but become attractive to flocks of finches seeking the weed seeds. These bulbs too are not very demanding at this stage and most will be left like this until the autumn. Only those which are considered to have need for a fresh site will be stripped of all the old débris and uprooted in July or August followed by drying. The one additional practice applied to the commercial bulbs is for these to be soaked in warm water (at 45°C for 3 hrs) before they are replanted.

The probable reason that the churchyard daffodils or any other ornamental bulbs do not normally need this treatment is because as they grow in wild places they remain generally healthy whereas in the fields, the monoculture system can encourage pests to establish. This is the problem with agriculture. A monoculture favours certain pests which the same plants, growing in the wild or in mixed company will seldom encounter.

So, our daffodils remain incredibly healthy provided they live in mixed company and those in our churchyard are living proof of this. It occurs to me that as flowers of the field that do not spin or gather into barns, daffodils are the perfect example for our country.


Andrew Tompsett