Community Daffodil Plantings Brighten Spring Roadsides

“Daffodils are catching – we see it all the time,” says landscape architect Eva Chiamulera of Fairfield, Connecticut. “One family plants daffodils by the mailbox or driveway. Pretty soon there are daffs along the driveway next door. Within a few springs, you see golden yellow flowers blooming at houses up and down the road.”

Sometimes whole towns fall for daffodils. The Lewisboro Garden Club in South Salem, New York, was first inspired by roadside daffodils they saw in nearby Pound Ridge. The club decided to plant some, too. Things took off from there. “It was like spontaneous combustion,” says George Scott, founder and longtime committee chairman of the project the garden club calls Golden Roads Daffodils.

Over the past 14 years, enthusiastic club members and community volunteers have planted more than 47,000 daffodils along area roadsides. Inspired by their efforts, local homeowners have planted an additional 38,000 bulbs of the same blend in high-visibility locations on their own properties.

The Golden Roads group sources its bulbs from Connecticut-based Colorblends Wholesale Flowerbulbs. “We get professional-quality bulbs and professional pricing, which is great,” says Scott.

Neighborhood planting projects are quite popular around the country, says Tim Schipper of Colorblends, whose firm sells direct to landscape professionals and avid home gardeners coast-to-coast. “Our pricing scale favors large purchases. So, it’s not unusual for friends and neighbors to pool their bulb lists to get a substantial discount in the cost per bulb.” Colorblends has a minimum order of $60.

Daffodils are a popular choice for roadside plantings, says Schipper. “Once the bulbs are established, they’re fairly maintenance-free and can bloom every spring for many years. Another big plus, they taste terrible – deer, voles and squirrels won’t eat them.”

For daffodil plantings that deliver a long run of bloom, he suggests choosing several types that bloom at different times in spring or a pre-mixed blend selected for long-bloom. Colorblends offers 12 signature daffodil blends suited to colder or warmer climates.

Mid-fall is a good time to stage a bulb planting event, says Schipper. “Bulb planting season typically starts by late September in colder areas and late November in milder areas. Once nighttime temperatures average between 40°F and 50°F, the soil has cooled sufficiently to encourage bulb rooting,” he says. The Golden Roads team, which is located in USDA climate zone 6b, schedules its annual planting event for the last Saturday in October, says Scott.

For best results planting roadside daffodils, Chiamulera advises planting the bulbs in sunny locations where the soil drains well.  The bulbs are well suited to planting in grassy areas along roadsides or marginal areas in lawns. “Plant the bulbs fairly densely,” she recommends. “Remember, passersby will view them from the road so you’ll want lots of flowers in spring to get the full effect.”

It’s critical to leave the daffodil foliage in place to die back unmown for eight or more weeks after bloom, she says. During the die-back period, the leaves recharge the bulbs with the energy needed to produce flowers the following spring. The Golden Roads team puts out homemade stakes that read “Do Not Mow Until June 15” to remind town maintenance crews to hold off on mowing.

The grass begins to grow quickly while the daffodils are dying back and eventually gets pretty shaggy.  For most people, the unkempt grass is well worth a great daffodil display. “For every 10 people who are bowled over by the flowers, you might get one who fixates on the long grass,” says Scott.

Daffodils in bloom are a spring delight, and daffodils planted where the public can enjoy them are doubly pleasing. Said one South Salem resident in a note to George Scott, “Thanks to Golden Roads, every day when I drive to work in spring, I arrive with a smile on my face – even on Mondays.”