On April 15 I will teach a class at Longwood gardens “Dazzling Daffodils—Structured in Sand.” The class begins at 9:30 a.m. and includes a quick walk to look at some spring bulbs as they grow, then back to the classroom where students will be given a container filled with sand and a variety of daffodils and other spring stems.

Hints for planting, harvesting and conditioning daffodils will be discussed and then some special tricks to working with daffodils and other spring flowers.

Daffodils start to bloom here in Pennsylvania in early March and new varieties pop up through May. The peak daffodil season is mid-April when the local Daffodil Society has their shows where growers display cut samples of the fourteen classifications of daffodils.

All daffodils are bulb flowers and classifications are based on different criteria as below:

  • Overall size of flower
  • Relationship of size of petals to size of corona
  • Number of layers in the corona
  • Number of blooms per stem
  • Growing habits

IMPORTANT: When harvesting daffodils from the garden it is important to know they exude a milky sap that is toxic to other flowers. Place freshly cut stems in cool water with no other flowers for 4-6 hours or overnight. Once the toxins have released from the flowers, they may be used with other flowers, but it is better not to re-cut the stems as the toxins may start to release again.

Arranging in sand

A favorite medium for making a display of daffodils is to place the stems in sand. Use playbox sand and not builder sand which will have small rocks and particles. You can get the sand from local building material stores in large quantities or in smaller amounts from the internet. Spring flowers love to be in sand and it will help them last for a long time.

Add water to the sand until it is totally saturated but not pooling on the top. If you add too much water, just add a little more sand to reach the proper level of saturation.

Daffodil stems are very soft and fragile. Before placing the stems into the sand, place a bamboo skewer up the hollow stem. This enables the flowers to stand erect.

Other tender spring flowers, such as muscari or grape hyacinth, may be grouped and attached to a bamboo skewer with florist wrap tape. Again this gives the tender stems support to stand.

Stronger stems such as pussywillow branches, ranunculus and poppies may be placed directly into the sand medium. Thick stemmed hyacinth will need to have a whole made in the sand before inserting them.

The sand medium can be used in bowls of many shapes and sizes. I like to use clear glass because it emphasizes the element of the sand. Here spring flowers combine with fresh little bulbs to create a unique spring arrangement much like the one we will do in the class.

Notice the small bulbs above the sand and the bulbs placed over the edge of the bowl. It adds a whimsical touch to a spring arrangement. If kept watered, your spring flowers will last a very long time in their sand design.

If you want a hands-on opportunity to work with these wonderful spring flowers in sand, sign up for my class at Longwood Gardens.

Happy spring. Enjoy the longer days and flowers yet to come.