Plant Daffodils – Spring Ephemerals in a Forest Garden

Daffodils and other flowering bulbs are a cheerful sight in spring. They can brighten up a garden and bring light to the partial shade around trees and shrubs. Spring bulbs like daffodils are spring ephemerals. They bloom only for a short time, fading and beginning to die back as warmer weather arrives. Through three seasons, they wait, then emerge once more the following spring.

In a forest garden, we often focus first on those plants that can provide us with an edible yield. Of course, daffodils definitely cannot give us that. The whole plant is poisonous, and accidents have occurred when the bulbs are mistaken for onions. Care should be taken.

But a successful forest garden design involves thinking not only about plants that will feed us, but also plants that will help to feed and sustain the entirely of the forest garden system.

Daffodils and other spring flowering bulbs can be useful in a forest garden for a number of reasons. They don’t just look pretty. They also:

  • Catch and store nutrients in the soil, sequestering them during a time when they can easily be washed away by spring rains.
  • Help to stabilise the soil and prevent topsoil from being washed away. (So can be particularly beneficial on sloping sites.)
  • Fade and die back after flowering. So unlike many other plants, won’t sequester those nutrients all year. A portion of the nutrients in the plants will be released and be re-released for other plants that may need them. 
  • Provide an important source of nectar for bees and other pollinators when few other food sources are available. Since they bloom just before fruit trees blossom, they can therefore help make sure pollinators are around for your fruit production.
  • Help to suppress grass growth within the root zone of a young tree when planted in a circle around its drip line.

Plant daffodils and other flowering bulbs this autumn. It could improve your forest garden or fruit tree guilds.

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