Plant Profiles: Daffodils
|A host of golden daffodils: a chance sighting at St James's Park, London in March|
Now there's the opportunity to try again as NAH - in Drastic Gardener guise again - has started to cut back some of the unwanted vegetation (mainly suckering blackthorn and bramble from the public land), thus letting more light onto our patch. The overgrown dogwood still needs taking in hand, but my mind is set on a host of dancing daffodils again.
In the meantime, I've treated myself to some of the daintier ones to cheer next spring. These are mainly in pots, so I can admire them from the patio. I tried this a few years ago and was surprised one evening to find the most amazing scent outside our bedroom window. It was the year of the freakishly warm March and I'd opened the windows wide to cool down. The voluptuous scent of N. 'Thalia' drifting upwards on the air was my reward.
So some more 'Thalia' went on my shopping list, along with 'Jack Snipe', 'Topolino', plus a species one, Narcissus lobularis. I've found the smaller narcissi to be the most rewarding daffodils of those gracing my garden. I also have a large bag of mixed bulbs (a garden centre club member freebie) which I shall add to those I've guerrilla gardened along the public path at the side of the house. Here the more robust, taller varieties rule the roost, making it easy for the residents of the local care home to see when they're taken out for a spot of fresh air.
I love many varieties (see below), and by picking a diverse range their display usually brightens my garden from February to early May... or in the case of last year, from December until May.
The best spot for them is in sunshine, or a place that receives at least 3 hours of sunshine per day. This can include some surprisingly summer-shady spots if the overhead canopy is deciduous. If the leaves have time to die down for 6 to 8 weeks after flowering before the leaf canopy closes overhead, it's worth giving them a try.
Deadhead spent flowers (so the plant concentrates on food stores rather than seeds) and allow the leaves to die down naturally after flowering. I quickly learned by tying them up or cutting them back to neaten the border was a surefire way to guarantee no flowers next spring. Plants need as much leaf area as possible to help them store sufficient food back in the bulb to power next season's flowering.
Plant firm, healthy looking bulbs; if any of them are soft or have signs of mould, they should be discarded. I've found sprouted ones are fine, as long as the rest of the bulb remains firm. Problems may include slug or snail damage, Narcissus basal rot, and Narcissus bulb fly.
- 'Geranium' (scented)
- 'Tete a Tete'
- 'Cheerfulness' (highly scented)
- 'St Patrick's Day'
- 'Ice Follies'
- 'Pheasant's Eye'
You can propagate daffodils, but they are usually so plentiful and cheap in the shops, it'd be rude not to buy them. Some varieties are good at propagating themselves - a big clue is when the blurb says 'good for naturalising' or 'clump forming'.
You could also try breeding your own daffodil variety. If this takes your fancy, Lia Leendertz's article on Ron Scamp - daffodil breeding supremo - will be of interest.
You may also like
- Breaking the Rules: Bulbs - in which I explain all is not lost if you - like me most years - don't manage to plant your daffodils this month
- Brightness Amongst Winter's Decay - last winter's record breaking flower count, including my earliest blooming daffodil, ever
- Bunches of Daffodils - one of my favourite views of our estate in spring
- Guerrilla Tactics - evidence of some of my guerrilla gardening
- London Surprises - which shows the bank of daffodils planted by the Tower of London. Imagine a bank like this with some trees and that's how my front side garden will look *crosses fingers*
- Miracle on St David's Day - my Muse Day post which introduces a quite different poem on the theme of daffodils
- The Lent Lily - another poem for Muse Day which uses one of the daffodil's common names
- Tippity Top Daffy Down Dillys - what to look for when buying cut daffodils (always my winter treat), courtesy of some of our fabulous British flower farmers
- University Research Garden - a show garden from RHS Cardiff, which highlights the varied research carried out at the university, including the role daffodils may play in the treatment of Alzheimer's
- The RHS' guide to daffodils, includes pictures of the 13 Divisions used to classify them and how to propagate them if you'd like to have a go
- Wikipedia's Narcissus entry has a lot of information on daffodil taxonomy, habitat, distribution, uses etc.
- Wikipedia's list of daffodils awarded the RHS' Award of Garden Merit (AGM) - seven of my favourites are included, plus 'Jack Snipe' I've just planted
- The American Daffodil Society has a useful website and includes a list of FAQs plus information on exhibiting in the USA. Alternatively, Great Britain's Daffodil Society has been going strong since 1898
- The National Collection of pre-1930s daffodils is held by Croft 16 in Scotland. The best time to view is in April and by appointment. Another part of the National Collection is held by Brodie Castle, a National Trust for Scotland property
- Wordsworth's Daffodils is one of our best-loved poems. Did you know there are two versions of it? No, I didn't either until I wrote this Plant Profile. Wordsworth's Daffodils reveals all...