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Saugus Gardens in the Spring

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Here’s what’s blooming in town this week to make your walks more enjoyable


By Laura Eisener


Despite the cold weather this week, spring is breaking out. This Saturday, March 30, is National Take a Walk in the Park Day. It was established to encourage people to appreciate the physical and mental benefits of taking a walk in natural surroundings. If you look up, you will see that stick season is gradually coming to an end as buds are appearing on some trees – especially elm, maple, and poplar. If you look down toward the ground, you will see more bulbs in bloom and green shoots from several perennials. Closer to eye level, buds on the forsythia look promising. We are waking earlier to the songs of birds, and many of the birds’ songs continue throughout the day.

Daffodil season has arrived a few weeks early. There are many hybrids of daffodil and jonquil (Narcissus spp. and hybrids). Later varieties will begin blooming in May, mostly shorter cupped types, which may include colors other than yellow. This week, the classic long trumpeted yellow varieties often called ‘King Alfred’ and several other large flowering varieties have begun blooming. Whether their trumpets are long or short, all are in the scientific genus ‘Narcissus.’

The classic yellow daffodil with a long bright yellow trumpet and matching yellow perianth was developed in England in the late 19th century. It quickly became the most popular daffodil variety, and was named after King Alfred I, nicknamed Alfred the Great. Alfred was a 9th century king of the Anglo-Saxons who fought off Viking invasions, established a new code of laws for much of what is now the United Kingdom and promoted education for citizens. His namesake daffodil became very popular among the diverse Narcissus varieties developed near the turn of the 20th century. By the late 20th century, similar looking daffodils created by other breeders were being sold under the name King Alfred, so it is never possible to be certain whether they are really the original variety or not. It may not make much difference to the average gardener, but Narcissus specialists continuously debate this question.

In front of the Malden Anglers’ clubhouse at Patkin Pond on Main Street there is a bright patch of yellow, white and blue, as a several clusters of daffodils and glory of the snow are now blooming there. Member Ken Washburn is an avid gardener who planted these spring bulbs and some other perennials near the clubhouse. The grounds include charming Patkin Pond, which is stocked with fish and surrounded by a woodsy landscape where members can relax and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere. Even with the cold and rainy weather on Saturday, several fishermen were out at the pond. I talked to member Kalil Boghdan, who said the club is planning additional gardening projects this spring, including planting some wildflowers from seed.

Other bulbs can be a nice complement to the daffodils. Glory of the snow (Chionodoxa lucilliae) has flowers that are blue purple edged with a white center and face upward. Siberian squill (Scilla sibirica) has similar blue flowers, but they face downward and typically have less white in the blossom. Glory of the snow is native to Turkey. Much smaller and with shorter stems than daffodils, they make a good lower layer when paired with daffodils in the garden, and the blue shades provide color contrast.

Of course, this week we might also see some Easter decorations among the real flowers, and possibly might find some easter eggs hidden here and there this weekend. It’s definitely a worthwhile time of year to keep your eyes open on your walks around town! Sunday is Easter, and there will certainly be some beautiful spring flowers popping up if you are observant.


  Editor’s Note: Laura Eisener is a landscape design consultant who helps homeowners with landscape design, plant selection and placement of trees and shrubs, as well as perennials. She is a member of the Saugus Garden Club and offered to write a series of articles about “what’s blooming in town” shortly after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. She was inspired after seeing so many people taking up walking.

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