By NANCY BALDWINNANCY BALDWIN The Dallas Morning News
Published: 20 June 2012 02:15 PM
Daffodils have been a part of Rod Armstrong’s life for as long as the Plano enthusiast can remember. As a youth in Virginia, for example, Armstrong remembers his mother’s fascination with the iconic spring flower.
“My mother was very much into gardening and garden clubs,” Armstrong says. “I learned very quickly how important daffodils were.”
When Armstrong married and bought a house, first in Virginia and later in Texas, the daffodils followed. “Every time we moved, she’d send more flowers to plant. There would be these strange numbers on the bag,” says Armstrong, referring to the daffodil classification code.
Intrigued by the code and the ever-increasing variety of flowers he received, Armstrong made it his goal to expand and to diagram his garden.
“I mapped out what I planted and where I planted it,” he says.
This dedication became a passion when his parents visited Texas in 1984. “My mother suggested I enter the Texas Daffodil Society show, and she showed me how to do it. It turned out I won a bunch of big awards. That’s when I became really interested.”
Those awards included the gold ribbon for best in show, the white ribbon for best vase of three, and the purple ribbon for best collection of five.
Encouraged by this early success, Armstrong joined the TDS and became active. “The Texas Daffodil Society welcomed me into their fold.”
Armstrong’s relationship with daffodils so deepened that he also joined the American Daffodil Society, the parent sponsor of TDS, and served over the years as regional director, regional vice president, treasurer and second and first vice president. He has won numerous awards for his daffodils at shows both in Texas and Virginia.
“I’m just into daffodils,” says Armstrong, a retired information management systems executive, and his garden is evidence of his zeal.
Flower beds dot the half-acre grounds overlooking a creek. Some beds, terraced by landscaper Kevin Kurkowski, grace a slope while others serve to outline the tree-lined property. The terraced boxes, as well as three other beds, are devoted to newer show flowers, while the others have older, naturalized plantings of daffodils.
“I do all my own landscape design,” says Armstrong, who has meticulously mapped, plotted and labeled the beds with more than 250 varieties from the United States, Great Britain, Northern Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.
“There are so many varieties of daffodil, many people don’t realize they’re daffodils,” he says.
Every bulb is carefully nurtured and its development monitored through Armstrong’s copious notes detailing stages of maturity and growth results.
Over the years, as trees and vegetation on the property have matured, Armstrong has adapted or moved his beds to minimize shade and amplify sunlight.
Still an enthusiastic grower, Armstrong, 68, continues to compete at southern regional ADS shows as well as at shows in Virginia and New England. At the 2012 TDS show, Armstrong received the gold ribbon for best bloom in show (‘Helford Dawn,’ Division 2), the mini gold for best miniature bloom in show (‘Xit,’ Division 3) and the white for best vase of three blooms in show (‘Helford Dawn,’ Division 2).
Armstrong’s daffodil legacy continues with his son, Andrew, who started showing daffs at age 7 and became an accredited judge during his junior year in high school.
Armstrong admits his approach to cultivating has mellowed. “I don’t take it as seriously as I used to,” he says. “They either grow or they don’t grow. I just like getting out and getting on my hands and knees and messing around in the dirt with the daffodils.”
Nancy Baldwin is a Plano freelance writer.
A pro’s choices
Although Rod Armstrong typically recommends Texas gardeners select jonquilla (Division 7) and tazetta (Division 8) varieties, there are other daffodils that will grow equally as well in the Dallas area.
Below are his favorites for planting in North Texas:
Gold Fusion, Double Play, Thalia, Salome, Hillstar, Avalanche, Accent, Tahiti, Grand Primo, Fragrant Rose
A few Dallas-area retail nurseries will stock uncommon daffodil varieties in the fall, when it is time to plant them, along with the few that have become standards here. Armstrong, however, recommends ordering bulbs in April, May or June for delivery from growers in September.
Bulbs should be planted when the ground has cooled and before it freezes, in Texas from mid-October through December.
Here are the general growers and specialty hybridizers Armstrong turns to first:
Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, Gloucester, Va., brentandbeckysbulbs.com
Cherry Creek Daffodils, Sherwood, Ore., Cherry Creek Daffodils | Facebook
David Burdick Daffodils, Dalton, Mass., daffodilsandmore.com
Ringhaddy Daffodils, Killinchy, County Down, Northern Ireland, ringhaddydaffodils.com
R.A. Scamp Quality Daffodils, Falmouth, Cornwall, England, qualitydaffodils.com
For so-called historics, daffodils introduced before 1940:
Old House Gardens, Ann Arbor, Mich., oldhousegardens.com
Southern Bulb Co., Golden, Texas, southernbulbs.com