Volunteers in a small New York community are planting massive drifts of daffodils this fall to paint their springtime roadsides golden. In the process, they’ve connected residents and helped groups in other areas create similar beautification programs.
The landscaping project, called Golden Roads Daffodils, is being shaped in and around South Salem, New York, an hour’s drive north of New York City.
Members of the Lewisboro Garden Club and others have planted over 38,000 daffodils along local roads over an 11-year period, while motivating homeowners to buy and plant 38,000 additional bulbs on their own properties.
“The project makes people feel good, while at the same time transforms the community,” said George Scott, a retired businessman and one of the early organizers.
After a learning curve lasting several years, the program has evolved into a streamlined, four-season operation. It enlists the aid of students (who get extra credits), nurseries (which donate bulbs and supplies), city officials (who issue the necessary clearances), residents (who donate cash and time) and even the police department, which parks patrol cars near busy intersections to ensure the safety of volunteers while planting.
Scott has fashioned an exhaustive schedule that begins every March with recruiting volunteers for fall planting. From there, it turns to choosing new planting locations, ordering signs, developing driving tours, coordinating with local managers, drafting letters seeking donations, determining bulb quantities and pricing, getting parking permits, holding training sessions, providing restrooms and refreshments, and assorted other tasks.
“We get a lot of support from different aspects of the community,” Scott said. “They’re really behind the program, which costs about $2,000 a year to manage.”
The Lewisboro Garden Club has shared its roadside-daffodil knowhow with similar groups in Holtsville, New York, and Ridgefield, Connecticut, Scott said.
Daffodils are the popular choice for roadside planting programs.
“They’re not needy plants,” said Christian Curless, a spokesman for Colorblends, a wholesale bulb company in Bridgeport, Connecticut, that provides the bulk of the Golden Roads Program bulb orders. “There’s little or no maintenance if the plants are getting enough sunshine.”
Daffodils also are deer-, vole- and squirrel-resistant, he said. “Plant predators despise their taste and won’t eat them.”
The organizers choose sites with visual impact, and plant the bulbs densely on slopes, median strips and along both sides of roads.
“Many people prefer pockets of individual daffodil varieties that show their colors all at once,” Curless said. “The drawback with that is that the display will be brief.
“Others choose bulb blends with a combination of early and late blooms. Blends provide a rolling display of golden colors as you’re passing by, even though some of the early blooms will be spent.
“It’s simply a matter of taste,” he said.
Don’t prune too early. Perennial bulbs need a long dormancy period after they finish flowering — a chance to regenerate. Without that, they’re likely to be colorless the following year, what Curless calls “blind plants.”
“You’ll get a good first year but after that, everything is problematic,” he said. “They won’t necessarily flower if conditions aren’t right.”
Fertilizing is a challenging subject, Curless said. Don’t overdo it.
“We’re having problems in this country with leeching of indiscriminate fertilizing,” he said. “In general, daffodils are not needing fertilizer. Test the soil.”