Around about this time every year my mind begins to move away from this season to the exciting prospect of what the garden will look like next year. I forget about the storms, the draught, the slugs and the successes and failures of this year. It is time to move on. Time to start thinking about spring bulbs.

One of the highlights of the Ploughing Championships for me was stocking up on favourite daffodils and tulips and picking up something fresh and new for my pots and borders. And my first port of call was usually Beechhill Bulbs, a family business, run by Damian McHugh that is based on a family farm just outside Tullamore Co Offaly.

So this month with Damien’s advice I thought we’d take a look at five great daffodils for you to try

Dutch Master

This sturdy daffodil has a plain yellow trumpet, it flowers in March so is a mid-season daffodil. Like all daffodils it likes free draining soil and generally escapes the attention of slugs. This variety is ideal for planting in lawns, grass verges and under trees.

It is a good idea to divide daffodils every few years as they are capable of doubling every two years. If not divided the number of flowers will gradually decrease and then leaves will begin to disappear. Eventually the crowded bulbs will go into extended hibernation and you will blame the crows or other pests for eating them.

Baby Boomer


This tiny daffodil is only six to eight inches in height. One of the botanical daffodils it is yellow with an almost orange centre. This little daffodil packs a powerful honey sweet scent, so is very suitable for the front of a border. It flowers in April and looks especially good when paired with purple tulips.



This is another botanical daffodil that grows to about six to eight inches. It’s a really dainty daffodil that produces clusters of white flowers with yellow centres. It is lightly scented and would look well in pots on a patio.

Pheasant’s Eye

Narcissus Recurvus.

Although well known ‘Pheasant’s Eye’ is worth repeating. This small cupped striking looking daffodil is crisp white with a yellow centre and orange rim. It flowers right up to May and grows to 16 inches. Its unusual colouring makes it an attractive proposition for any border.


Narcissus geranium.

Geranium is a cluster-forming daffodil with as many as four flower heads to each stem. It has white petals with an orange centre and grows to about 15 inches. It is fragrant and flowers into May.

Along with these Damian would recommend ‘Winston Churchill’ and ‘Bridal Crown’ if scented and late flowering daffodils are what you want. He can be contacted at 057-9322 956 or

Getting to grips with hedges

With the better weather of the past few weeks we were able to catch up on some jobs that badly needed to be done around the garden, Hedge clipping was top of the list and it’s no simple matter. It’s 34 years since we moved into Ballyanne and planting hedges around the house was a top priority. Beech hedges were our first choice and we’ve never regretted the work that went into making them a success.

On the eastern side of one beech hedge, we planted a line of alders and thuja to protect the beech and ensure it got off to a good start. Over the years we have cut back hard on the alders but they continue to grow like weeds. The beech hedge is now three metres in height and we needed a cherry picker to do a good job on it.

Thorny dilemma

While we were in REPS we planted a whitethorn hedge along the 300 metres of lane between the road and our house. If I had my way I’d take a bulldozer to it and start again.

It faces west, from where we get most of our prevailing winds and despite protecting it with green mesh it’s still patchy and varies greatly in depth and width. It doesn’t help that the sheep love the emerging shoots in May.

Whatever about the hedges, it’s the trees that cause the biggest row in our house. I’m into crown lifting (removal of lower branches) while for Sean this feels like he is personally giving up an arm or leg. Removing even the smallest branch calls for the negotiating skills of Michel Barnier and the patience of Job.

Reader recommends

Thank you to everyone who contacted me about the sad plight of our roses this summer. It is good to know I’m not alone.

Thanks to Margot for recommending a replacement for Gertrude Jekyll. It’s ‘Port Sunlight’, also a David Austin highly scented peach coloured rose that blooms continuously from July until she cuts it back in December.

On the other hand Lizzie was devastated by the condition of her roses. Roses that she had devoted time to, that had been manured, fed and sprayed since April. They were also getting a weekly spray of a milk and water mix. She wonders if there is a future for roses as the climate begins to change.

Nancy recommended using dahlias to generate the blast of colour that roses provide especially from mid July to the first frosts. It’s a pity they aren’t scented.