Reflecting on narcissus
Many people, bored by common-or-garden varieties of daffodils, may have written off this golden bulb but there is so much more to them
The result is an elegantly beautiful and richly atmospheric spring garden, filled with the sorts of daffodils that are about as far away from the charmless, heavy-headed gaudiness of some of the modern show-bench types as you could possibly get.
So how to grow them? While these long-lived bulbous beauties are generally easy to cultivate, there are a few key points worth keeping in mind.
The main daffodil season runs from February to May (even earlier for those grown in pots under glass), so try choosing different varieties so that as one finishes flowering, another takes its place.
For example, the early and excellent cyclamineus-type known as N. ‘February Gold’ (yellow flowers, 30cm, February- March), followed by N. ‘Thalia’ (multi- headed white flowers, 40cm, late March-April) and N. ‘Hawera’ (multi- stemmed, scented lemon flowers, 20cm, April-May).
While daffodils like full sun or light shade, they won’t thrive in deep shade, so plant them where they’ll get at least a half-day’s worth of sunlight.
Plant at a depth of three times the height of the bulb (pointed end up), roughly 10cm apart and (if in the ground) in naturalistic drifts, into fertile, moist but free-draining soil.
Most daffodils will spread over time, so keep this in mind if you are planting into lawns as regards the mowing regime (choose taller varieties for long grass, such as the late-flowering, fragrant pheasant’s eye narcissus, N. poeticus var. recurvus (white/orange,35cm, May) and N. ‘Actaea’ (white/yellow, 45cm, late April).
Avoid planting into poorly drained or freshly manured soil, which will make the bulbs rot. The miniature varieties in particular appreciate sharp drainage.
Nip back faded flowers but don’t cut back foliage until it has completely yellowed. Congested clumps will eventually stop flowering; using a garden fork (never a spade), divide them in late June-July.
Finally, take great pleasure from the fact that the small amount of time, effort and money that you spend on growing them will be repaid in spades; the daffodil bulbs you plant this year will flower each spring for many years to come, as will their many offspring.
See mrmiddleton.com, avonbulbs.com and broadleighbulbs.co.uk