Spring means DaffodilsAlison Marsden
It seems appropriate to write about Daffodils in March, not just because they are the emblematic flower of St David’s day on March 1st but because we have been enjoying their display through February and will continue right to the end of April. What other spring bulb is so reliable in giving flowers for such a long period? Granted you have to choose a range of varieties to see flowers for the whole three months, but there are so many to select from that this is not difficult. More of a challenge may be in restricting our choice to fit into the garden – with so many different sizes, colours and flower shapes now on offer, some a long way from what we might think of as the traditional, rather brash and unsubtle ‘Daff. Just look at this wonderful display of white ones in Arundel Castle Gardens (photo 2021).
One point to clear up is that Daffodils and Narcissus are exactly the same thing botanically. In the UK we have a tendency to use Daffodil for the basic, big yellow ones, and Narcissus for the more decorative or delicate forms. Goodness knows why! But if you want to look up a list of varieties then the genus name Narcissus is what you need. One great advantage of Daffodils over their later rival as Britain’s favourite spring bulb, the Tulip, is that Daffs are native to northern Europe and a couple even (probably) native to the UK, the Lent Lilly and the Tenby Daffodil. This makes them tolerant of damper soils especially in winter than Tulips that, although perfectly hardy, are native to central Asia and Turkey and resent being waterlogged. Certainly my clay soil needs a lot of organic matter added to keep Tulips happy in the ground and frequently they fade away after a year or so.
Once your Daffodils have finished flowering, let the leaves die naturally to photosynthesise and replenish the bulb before it goes dormant for the summer. I cut the stiff stem down to ground level and carefully lay the leaves flat so they are less conspicuous as they yellow. Planting Daffodils behind the front row of plants in a border is also a neat trick. The flowers stand tall enough to be visible but the plants in front hide the dying foliage.
Happy Gardening from Alison
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