There’s one thing on my mind this week – daffodils. Or should that be two things – daffodils and narcissus? When I was young I thought these were two separate but related plants – but they aren’t. Both fall into the genus narcissus but we generally call the large trumpeted varieties daffodils
and the smaller ones
narcissus. September is traditionally the month to plant these beauties with their scent of spring, though some people swear that October is a better month. I am going to compromise by planting towards the end of September but now is the moment to make your choice and buy the bulbs while they are still in plentiful supply.
Alan Titchmarsh writes:
‘I always prefer the miniature varieties to the full-blown “cooking” daffs, since their scale is more in keeping with small gardens and they have an elegance lacking in the likes of ‘King Alfred’
and ‘Carlton’. Both of these tend to get bowed down by snow and rain, allowing any passing slug or snail to hop aboard and eat their fill.
The miniatures also have foliage which is less obvious when it is dying down in those six vital weeks after flowering before you can chop it off. Plant these miniatures in clumps at the front of your beds and borders.
Of the taller varieties that do stand up to the weather I defy you to find a yellower yellow than the stunning ‘St Keverne’, and May without
Old Pheasant’s Eye
‘Old Pheasant’s Eye’ and its divine scent is only half the month it should be. I cut them and bring bunches indoors to scent the kitchen – almost as good as the aroma of bacon frying and a darned sight sweeter.
So get a catalogue or go online now and get your order in promptly. The fatter and the larger the bulbs you buy, the better will be your display. So don’t stint or go for cheaper options – and don’t buy “mixed” varieties; they lack the impact of a group of one variety.
Pound for pound, daffodil bulbs are about the best value going. So be sure to make the most of them.’
Deborah Stone reminds us that you can have them flowering in the garden for a long season, January to April, if you plan the varieties. Here are her suggestions:
January: try Narcissus Spring Dawn, a delicate creamy lemon flower on short stems about 10 inches (15cm) long. They flower from January and work well in borders, containers and are especially good for naturalising in lawns.
February: One of the best-known early-flowering daffodils is February Gold, with bright yellow trumpets and petals that curve backwards, almost as if they are eager to please.Another good naturalising bulb bt good for borders and pots too.They grow to about five inches tall (12cms), but don’t expect them to appear until late into the month.
March: Most daffodils and narcissi flower in March, so you have plenty to choose from. But for something a little different try Narcissus Rio Van Winkle. Its yellow flower looks like it’s been designer-distressed, with masses of ragged petals that create a yellow starburst.
April: Narcissus poeticus var. recurvus, more easily known as old pheasants’ eye, are really pretty narcissi with creamy white petals and tiny yellow trumpet-like corona trimmed with orange that looks like a bit like an eye. They also have a lovely delicate perfume.
Whichever you choose – even if it’s a last minute purchase in the supermarket – get some daffs in the ground – they’ll be a delight in spring.