Finally, We Have Daffodils!

Despite a return to cold, blustery weather and barely a decent spring day so far this year, the daffodils (narcissus) have at last started to bloom.

I suppose it is because of the long winter weeks of relative stillness in the garden that we eagerly await the first signs of new life: the first grey green tip of the daffodil’s leaves pushing through the soil, the lengthening of the flower stalk, the swelling of the bud and the first hint of colour and, then, the pleasure of seeing the open trumpet in all its glory. And how apt that daffodils are one of the few flowers that have trumpets, for the sight of them, whether just a few or en masse, herald the start of the floral year with a fanfare of pleasure as great as any orchestral masterpiece.

Narcissus ‘Carlton’
Last autumn saw the planting of 8000 daffodils along the edge of a field that led to one of our client’s houses. The hard labour was well worthwhile both in physical effort and the time we have had to wait to see the result. When I plant like this, I mix the varieties to extend the flowering period – generally Carlton, St Keverne, Counsellor and, if I want a few white included, Ice Follies.

Combination of varieties to extend the flowering period

Narcissus ‘Ice Follies’

I can be incredibly opinionated, as many of you will know, where plants are concerned. I tend to prefer simple, unimproved varieties – fancy colours and doubles, or those described as having the largest flowers ever seen, can be left for others to grow. I can see no reason why, for example, a bloom “as big as your face” (as I saw one begonia described) is considered desirable. I am not keen on double daffodils as they nearly always seem to be top heavy. The slightest puff of wind or shower of snow and the heads sit face down on the ground where they remain to be eaten by slugs. Ice King is a variety I plant – although hardly to be described as a favourite – as it stands fairly well. In the photo one bloom has collapsed which rather proves a point.

Narcissus ‘Ice King’

Salome, is a bi coloured variety, the trumpet changing from a rich yellow to a peachy shade as it fades. I can never decide if I really like it or not. Here, in the photo below, it gives a warm glow to the border. However, what can be more charming the pure simplicity of Segovia? Its delicate yellow cup and pure white, evenly spaced petals (or perianth, if we want to be horticulturally correct) give it the look of a plant that has quiet superiority.

Narcissus ‘Salome’

Narcissus ‘Segovia’

Whatever your personal preference, daffodils are a joy and amazing value for money. With individual bulbs just costing pence each and increasing year by year if left to naturalise, it is always remarkable that after a few short weeks, we cannot wait to see them gone, being tired of their gently decaying leaves which interfere with our border work or mowing regimes.
When grown in grass, we mow the top growth off six weeks after flowering for, by then, nourishment has returned to the bulb and next years flowering is assured. Just to be doubly certain, we feed the grass grown bulbs with Autumn lawn food (minus the weedkiller, of course) immediately after flowering. And being the fickle species man is, six months later we will be back eagerly scouring the ground for the first signs of the daffodils and the forthcoming warmer weather once more.

Narcissus ‘Burma’

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