As the cold is just breaking in Atlanta, spring emerging bulbs are thriving in the Entrance Gardens of Atlanta History Center. Take a closer look at some of our new additions.
As you walk by the History Center on the West Paces Ferry sidewalk in early spring, you can smell the fragrant golden blooms of jonquils, Narcissus ‘Sweetness,’ from 20 feet away. We added 2,000 of these heirloom bulbs in November 2022, drifting them through the switchgrass (Panicum virgatum ‘Cape Breeze’), Mexican feather grass (Nassella tenuissima), white coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’) and butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). Narcissus ‘Sweetness’ is an early-blooming fragrant jonquil dating back to 1939.
Jonquils are a type of daffodil that do well in baking Southern heat, have multiple flowers per stem, and narrow, reed-like foliage. This division of daffodils is called jonquils because they have some of the species Narcissus jonquila in their pedigree. Jonquilla-type daffodils are typically very fragrant, and this cultivar is an excellent perennializer in the South. Perennializing bulbs will come back year after year, whereas naturalizing bulbs will multiply and spread around the area planted. Conditions like well-drained fertile soil, and dry winter locations are helpful to keep your bulbs healthy.
Another sweeping show of bulbs is the 3,000 Narcissus ‘Carlton’ that covers the hillside on the way up to the History Center entrance from the parking deck. This bulb was introduced to the trade in 1927, one year after the Atlanta Historical Society was founded. Cascading down amidst threadleaf bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii) and fall-blooming asters (Symphyotrichum oblongifolius ‘Rachel Jackson’), they add a dazzling early-season display while the other perennials are just emerging. Narcissus ‘Carlton’ is the world’s second most numerous daffodil for a reason—it has the traditional shape of a large-cup daffodil with a large and bright yellow bloom, provides a sweet vanilla fragrance, and most importantly—has proven itself a great perennializer in the hot climate areas.
Around our Tree Table, we have a more consolidated collection of special heirloom bulbs, ranging in discovery from 1833–1890. Overall, we added 27 new Narcissus varieties to the Entrance Gardens in the past two years.
We are planting smaller test patches of certain bulbs to see if they perennialize or naturalize well in certain locations within the Entrance Gardens. Some of our small test patches are with cultivated varieties of spring starflower (Ipheion uniflorum), species tulips that look more like wildflowers such as varieties of Tulipa clusiana, and several cultivated varieties of grape hyacinth, Muscari. The already-proven Leucojum aestivum, summer snowflake—which blooms in spring (one reason why we give you Latin names) has been planted between the large switchgrass patch that emerges much later in spring, giving the same spot of ground two seasons of bloom.
We expect the daffodils to peak around mid-March, and early spring would be the perfect time to see our bulb expansion in the Entrance Gardens. At the same time, the native spring wildflowers in the Gilbert Quarry Garden will have started flowering, and redbuds in Swan Woods will be blooming. We can’t wait for you to enjoy them with us!