Daffodils are some of the most eagerly anticipated early heralds of spring here on the farm.
When our orchard slope was first cleared, the entire area looked depressingly bare.
Even with the newly planted fruit trees in place, there was a definite lack of presence in the orchard. It would take time for the trees to grow and fill in, and I’m not a terribly patient person by nature.
In a quest for some instant garden gratification, I started out by planting a few hundred daffodil bulbs. They emerged the next spring, but they seemed few and far between, so the following fall I added more. In my mind’s eye, I envisioned how the slope might look some day as the bulbs slowly naturalized, and the daffodils gained a greater presence, but I knew it would take time.
Daffodils aren’t native, obviously, but they do bring a certain cheer to the orchard before anything else blooms, and they have the advantage of being done for the season before the deciduous fruit trees leaf in too much. By the time these daffodils fade, the native poppies should be in bloom.
The last two years the daffodils have popped up in late winter, but seemed somewhat sparsely scattered across the orchard. I don’t know how 500+ bulbs can result in sparse anything, but here it’s a question of scale.
The entire orchard is surrounded by towering trees, that naturally draw the eye upward. It would be a challenge for the daffodils to stand out against such views, as their tiny scattered specks of yellow emerged along the slope in spring.
This year though I feel all that bulb planting is finally starting to pay off.
Although not yet the continuous drift of yellow I have envisioned for this area, the bulbs are clearly starting to multiply, and beginning to hold their own in the orchard.
Even the tiny Tete-a-Tetes this year have burst forth in miniature masses. Considering the scale of the planting, I’m actually quite surprised just how much impact even these diminutive blooms have in the orchard.
Ordinarily, I’m not sure I’d be brave enough to plant something bright pink next to a yellow bloom, but there’s something quite pleasing about seeing this Indian Free peach in bloom, with yellow blossoms at its feet.
Last year I started to extend the daffodils outside of the orchard fence, to bring a little cheer down to the level of the farm road. This is only their second season, but hopefully they’ll begin to fill in similarly next season.
One area that I planted the daffodils outside the fence though, is a problem. Believe it or not, Daffodils have a dark and sinister side.
There’s a small green weedy patch that leads up to the orchard gate. Most of what grows in this area seems to be gophers and voles, so last year I unloaded a few ‘spare’ daffodil bulbs on that slope. I didn’t expect much else would survive the constant churning of the soil in that area. We’ve focused on gopher removal inside the orchard, so this area has been rather neglected thus far.
I knew the gophers wouldn’t eat them, although they have managed to relocate about half of them over the past year. This weekend though, I pulled them up…all of them. Even the ones in bloom.
I wasn’t sure if I could successfully transplant blooming daffodils, or if the shock would be too much for them. It didn’t hurt to try though, or they’d be destined for compost, so I moved them to inside the orchard fence.
The question is, why would I want to move all these daffodils? As you probably know, daffodils are one of the few spring bulbs that are truly gopher, and deer proof. This is because flowers in the Amaryllidaceae family, like daffodils, contain various toxic alkaloids, including Lycorine, Galanthamine, and Narciclasine , that animals find unpleasant. When ingested, daffodils can cause gastrointestinal upset, including vomiting, and diarrhea. Excessive consumption of Narcissus bulbs can cause tremors and convulsions, and cardiac arrhythmias [2,3,4].
Although the bulbs are more toxic than the leaves, in light of our recent new additions to the farm, we’ve chosen to pull the daffodils from this area.
We never presume that any animal ‘knows’ to leave toxic plants alone. If that were true, toxicologists wouldn’t be as busy as they are! As such, the daffodils have now been rehomed inside the orchard where the goats can’t reach them.
As this weedy patch gets plenty of sun, we’ve had a change of plan. The revised plan for this area is to turn our mini-meadow into a safe place for the goats to occasionally romp around on a warm summer’s afternoon, without worrying about whether or not they’ll browse on potentially poisonous plants.
With a shift in the weather this week, to something that more closely resembles winter than spring, we’re expecting some significant rainfall over the next few days. We’ve already had more than 2 inches of rain since midnight. This slope was desert dry over the weekend, so much so the soil was beginning to crack, so the rain is very welcome.
With the daffodils now gone, the meadow area was cut, and today, between the rain showers, I’m hoping to dash out to sow some of this goat-friendly dairy pasture mix in the meadow instead.
It won’t be as pretty, but the goats will enjoy that area once it’s replanted. They’ll just have to be content to admire the daffodils from afar.
 Vigneau CH, Tsao J, Chamaillard C, and Galzot J. Accidental Absorption of Daffodils (Narcissus jonquilla): Two Common Intoxicants. Vet Hum Toxicol. 1982;24:133–135.
 Aganga A, Nsinamwa M., Oteng K., and Maule B. Poisonous Plants in Gardens and Grazing Lands. Online Journal of Animal Feed and Research. 2011; 1(2): 52-59.
 Saxon-Buri, S. Daffodil Toxicosis in an Adult Cat. The Canadian Veterinary Journal. 2004; 45(3): 248-250.
 Animal Poison Control Center: Daffodil