Fields of Spring

margaret_postridge_fieldsofspringLovely naturalized daffodil fields will now greet us each spring at the park beside the Colborne Seniors Centre and in Postridge Park in northeast Oakville. This project was the brainchild of Oakville Horticultural Society (OHS) member Margaret Jeffery. Under her guidance, dozens of volunteers from both the Oakville and Bronte Horticultural Societies planted well over 4000 daffodil bulbs at two specially selected sites early in the fall of 2014. This work was done with the assistance of Horticulture Supervisor, Steve Wiersma, and a hard working Town of Oakville crew who prepared the sites for planting. After the ground was raked and rolled, several pounds of Ecolawn were sewn. We can now look forward to seeing a breathtaking display in the month of May or April if the spring is warm.

In undertaking this project, OHS hopes to help beautify the community while promoting environmental protection. These two goals are among the objectives mandated for Horticultural Societies under the Ontario Agricultural and Horticultural Organizations Act.  We further hope that this project inspires others to enhance their own gardens with spring bulbs and to consider alternatives to lawns.  Ecological lawns should require no fertilizer, no additional water and minimal or no care with power mowers and blowers. They can reduce water and air pollution as well as tree damage from weed whackers quite prevalent on public lands.

The two sites selected have very different soil types, sand by the lake and clay in the north. This distinction, along with other climatic factors, will allow us to see how the chosen daffodil varieties and particular blend of fine fescues behave under different conditions.

The particular grasses used in the EcoLawn blend chosen include cultivars of Blue Fescue (F. glauca), Hard Fescue (F. longifolia), Creeping Red Fescue, (Festuca rubra), Chewings Fescue (F. rubra subsp. commutata) and Slender Fescue (F. trachyphylla). Using a blend of grasses provides the best opportunity for success. It is expected that the two sites will develop differently as the conditions will favour a distinct species mix. By observing the plants overtime, blends can be tailored for future sites.

As for the daffodils, choosing which of the 25,000 registered cultivars to use was no easy task. Margaret Jeffery selected blends of top performing daffodils. For both sites strong golden tones will come from a blend of three daffodil cultivars: the two trumpet daffodils, Narcissus ‘King Alfred’ and ‘Dutch Master’ along with the large-cupped variety called ‘Camelot.’ But the sites are unique and so too are the designs. Since the Lakeshore site was to be viewed by those passing along the road as well as those visiting the Centre, the display was designed to both be looked down upon and viewed from a distance. The way the sunlight moves over the site dictated to Margaret that white daffodils should flow through the yellows. White highlights were added with the creamy white trumpet daffodil ‘Mount Hood’ and the large-cupped elegant ‘Ice Follies’ that has a beautifully ruffled creamy yellow corona that matures to white.

Postridge Park is a totally different site. The garden area slopes upwards from Postridge Drive and can be viewed from those passing by car or by those enjoying the Park’s children’s play area or enjoying some sport or just walking by the park.  It can be seen looking down, up or sideways, which is interesting. The place has an energy that called out for vibrant orange and flashes of white. The vivid orange colour for this site is provided by the large-cupped ‘Fortissimo’ – a midseason bloomer with yellow petals and a long ruffled orange center, a similar but earlier blooming cultivar called ‘Missouri’ with a shorter more scarlet orange corona and ending the season with the fragrant and vivacious ‘Red Devon’. White highlights are delivered by the dynamic ‘Ice Follies.’

Over time, the daffodil bulbs will multiply and spread extending the display in both park settings. Again site conditions will favour some cultivars over others and the design will continually evolve. Since both sites have many differences there is a lot to be learned over the next few years as we see results come together. Volunteers will be needed to dead head the daffodils in June and keep the weeds at bay for the first couple of years until the grasses establish. Once the fescues have become well rooted, they should outcompete typical broadleaved weeds … or so we hope. This trial is an experiment and a learning experience for all involved. The success or failure of the plants chosen will inform future plantings and help us to create a more sustainable, beautiful and healthy community.

We encourage you to visit the sites and watch their progress.

We are very grateful to the following for their assistance and guidance in helping us realize our dream:

Project Supporters:

Town of Oakville,

  • Jane Arnett Senior Manager, Operations Parks, and Open Space
  • Steve Wiersma, Supervisor of Horticulture Parks, and Open Space
  • Donna Doyle, Town of Oakville, Senior Environment Policy Analyst

Region of Halton

  • Kathy MacAlpine-Simms, Water Efficiency Program Manager

Suppliers and Test Bed Supporters:

  • Garden Import, President Dugald Cameron
  • Vanhof & Blokker, Ferdinand Otawa
  • Van Noort Bulbs Co., Dennis Fallat

Thank you to the members of the Oakville Horticultural Society and members of the Bronte Horticultural Society who joined us for the two daffodil planting sessions.

Lakeshore_fieldsofspring