Narcissi: we can always rely on the humble daffodil to bring colour and cheer
Known botanically as Narcissi, daffodils come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and colourings. They perform year after year with practically no attention, and will provide cheer and interest whether they are grown in containers, mixed planting borders or in a lawn.
Although most of us think of daffodils as ‘spring bulbs’ they are actually herbaceous perennials. Having been cultivated for centuries there are lots of different daffodils, but all have long narrow green leaves and attractive white, yellow or orange flowers formed of six petals and a trumpet-shaped centre (corona). Depending upon the cultivar, daffodils vary in height from as little as 10-15cm up to 30-45cm. Some produce a single flower from each bulb, whilst others will produce multiple blooms. Some are also highly scented.
Daffodils are exceptionally easy to grow in most soil types and conditions, although it is often better to avoid very wet or shaded locations. ‘Dry’ bulbs are available to buy from most garden centres and online plant retailers during autumn and can be planted immediately. As a general rule of thumb, they should be planted at a depth that is about three times the height of the bulb, although this can be reduced a little if they are planted in containers. For best results, I always recommend planting all spring bulbs in clusters or drifts.
Over time, daffodils will gradually spread by producing new ‘baby’ bulbs. These will slowly form larger clumps, but may also be naturally distributed by birds, moles and other creatures when they dig the soil and disturb the bulbs. We can recreate this process by lifting and dividing clumps of bulbs and replanting them where we choose although, ideally, we should do this after the flowers have finished flowering but before all of the foliage has completely died back.
If we choose to pick daffodils for the vase (please remember it is generally illegal to pick flowers from the wild), we should always take care to leave as much of the foliage as possible. Bulbs ‘recharge’ themselves after flowering, storing energy for the following year’s display. Removing the leaves before this process is complete can seriously impact the plant’s ability to sustain flowers next spring as is the most common reason for daffodils coming up ‘blind’.
Daffodils are generally trouble free and perform year after year without much fuss and attention. A wonderful herald of the forthcoming spring, I simple can’t imagine not having daffodils in my own garden every February.
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