Thursday, March 20, 2014

Bringing Home Beechwood Jonquils

It's finally the first official day of spring and that means it's jonquil season! Weekend before last we mentioned heading down to Beechwood (my mom's house) to pick some jonquils and tried uprooting a few to bring back and plant at home. We've been eager to add some color in the form of flowers to our outdoor space and this has been a fun first step — especially since they're perennials that should return every spring with minimal to no upkeep. The reason we go to Beechwood each year for the jonquils is this:


If you look closely, you'll notice them popping up all along the hillside. This is just a small portion of the land covered with bulbs. The story goes something like this — My great grandmother planted over 1000 bulbs across the hillside and would sell the flowers each spring at the local market. Over the years, the bulbs have continued to multiply and now fill the wooded ravine with a see of yellow each March.

If you've followed along with us for a while, you will recognize the space from where we've spent the last few Thanksgivings. It's a stretch of private property in Prince George, Virginia that overlooks the James River and has been a part of our family for years. Since I was a baby and long before my mother built a house on the property, we've gone down each March to pick the jonquils. Mom transferred bulbs to each of her Richmond homes and we'd take flowers to each of our grandparents and teachers growing up.

Here I am in all of my early 80's toddler glory running around outside at Beechwood, picking the jonquils (after all, it is #TBT):


And my mother, who was just a few years older than I am now when this shot was taken:


It's amazing the traditions we make over the years, not even realizing how long they span:


Here's a better look at the incline we were picking flowers on to give you an idea of the hillside's incline:


We uprooted a handful of jonquil bulbs, some with buds and others without, along with another handful of what we think will be leucojum (they look like white bell shaped flowers). We wrapped them gently in moist paper towels to bring back home:


Note: While this post is all about uprooting and transferring jonquil bulbs from one location to another, I think it's important to mention we realize this isn't the ideal timing for doing so. Jonquil and daffodil bulbs are best planted in the fall, not the spring. The reality for us is this — we've talked for years about digging up a few of the hillside bulbs to bring them back and plant in our yard. Each spring comes and we go to pick the flowers, telling ourselves we'll return in the fall to dig a few bulbs up, but we never do. So we decided to chance it this go round and just try to go for it outside of the ideal planting season, figuring if we don't have success we can always go back in the fall to try again.

The wooded hillside where all the jonquils bloom leads down to the river-shore and is usually filled with a few buried treasures waiting to be found.



We came across a few dirt-filled prizes like this amber glass bottle and enamel containers:


You never know what you mind find along the ravine. Back in 2011, you might remember we came across the deer skull we later mounted on our kitchen wall.


We made our way down the wooded ravine until we hit the clearing onto the sandy river beach:


This stretch of beach along the James contains a pocket where we've been finding shark's teeth for several generations (remember when we taught the kids how to find them last year?):


After picking up a few teeth and encouraging Basil to take a dip in the river we took our bucket of bulbs and walked back up the clear side of the ravine to head back into Richmond.


Once back home, we got to work quickly in an effort to get the bulbs back into the soil the same day we'd uprooted them. First up, I tried cleaning up the bed on our front sidewalk a little bit:


This area is a bit of a lost cause since it's technically city property and all the neighborhood dogs (including Basil) have their way with it when walking by. Regardless, I cleared out all the brush, trimmed back the liriope and and buried about 10 of the mixed bulbs all around the tree in this bed. 


I'm not hoping for really anything in this space, but if the flowers come back again next year, I'll be happy! While out front, I planted a small grouping of the biggest and strongest looking bulbs in our bed under the shrubbery, hoping for the best.

Out back I trimmed up the small bed at the stairs and transplanted a grouping of the bulbs between the plants already in this space:


I put all the leftovers in a planter to place near the window, hoping to add a little greenery and color around this back space:


So, how are they fairing? Well, so far so good. Here's how they looked just after transplanting them into our space:


And here's how they looked Sunday afternoon:


In each of the areas where we transplanted, the stems have straightened and seem to be taking to the ground well. Because we went against the grain on timing for planting these flowers, we're crossing our fingers for success, but aren't 100% sure what will happen. If they do well, they'll come back year after year, and multiply — creating beds of bright yellow reminders of Beechwood and our family — that's what we're hoping for.

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