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Faded daffodil leaves

Q: Is it acceptable to braid daffodil foliage after the flowers have faded?

Nicole Kearney, Findlay, OH

Camouflage fading daffodios by hiding their yellowing leaves behind the emerging leaves of perennials like daylilies. Camouflage fading daffodios by hiding their yellowing leaves behind the emerging leaves of perennials like daylilies. Photo/Illustration: Jennifer Blume

A: Sydney Eddison, garden designer and frequent Fine Gardening author, responds: Left to its own devices, daffodil foliage does take its own sweet time in going dormant, often lingering in my garden through June. While I don’t have passionate opinions on the subject of braiding daffodil leaves, it has always struck me that letting nature take its course is the best approach.

As long as a daffodil’s foliage is fresh and green, it is photosynthesizing and contributing to the food supply for the following season by actively storing energy in the bulb. I have no idea whether or not braiding interferes with photosynthesis, but it certainly doesn’t help. For this reason, I plant daffodils behind groups of daylilies. The vigorous, arching foliage of the daylilies soon hides the yellowing leaves of the daffodils. Dense, bushy perennials like threadleaf coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata) and catmint (Nepeta spp. and cvs.) can serve the same purpose. Having tucked the daffodil foliage out of sight behind the daylilies and other perennials, I rarely bother to cut it down. Every spring I mulch the perennial beds with chopped leaves, and the dead daffodil foliage becomes a com­ponent in this layer of organic mulch.

From Fine Gardening 85, pp. 92