Caring For Daffodils and Narcissi

AMONG the great joys of the spring are the daffodils. Daffodils to most people mean the large, yellow trumpet varieties such as the ever-popular King Alfred. But there are many other kinds, some with while trumpets, some with red, some with yellow upright petals surrounding the trumpet, others white. There are even pink kinds. In some varieties the trumpet is very small.

There are also beautiful varieties with double flowers, which have neither cup nor trumpet. But. Although some people still think of narcissi as different plants, they are merely different forms of the same plant and all daffodils and narcissi are strictly speaking Narcissi. The so-called narcissi, many of them with several flowers to the flower head, include the pheasant’s eye narcissus, the fragrant jonquils, the poctaz hybrids and the poeticus narcissus.

This wonderful range of plants also includes many delightful miniatures with flowers in many shapes and colours. In some the flowers are perfect miniature versions of the large trumpet varieties. Others are like tiny ‘narcissi’ and still others have much reflexed petals like cyclamen. One charming kind has flowers which look very like the old-fashioned crinoline and this ‘is popularly called the ‘Hoop-petticoat’ narcissus.

The uses to which all these may be put in the garden are many and varied. The large-flowered kinds and many of the ‘narcissi’ are often used for spring bedding. More permanent plantings are made in informal clumps or drifts and these bulbs may be left in the ground for several years before being dug up, split up and replanted. Such plantings look well among shrubs, in open woodland, at the bases of trees and in many other places. Another way of growing them is to naturalise them informally in rough grassland, in orchards or on grassy banks. They may be grown in this way in lawns but it is best to keep them to the corners as the grass should not be mown until after the leaves of the daffodils have turned brown and died down in June. The miniatures of all kinds look well on the rock garden or growing between paving stones where there is little traffic. And, like their larger counter-parts, they may be planted in bowls, pots or other containers to flower in the house or greenhouse in winter. They are also ideal for planting in large terrace pots or tubs for flowering in the open in spring. Those used for spring’ bedding purposes and those grown in tubs in this way, are planted between August and November. They have to be lifted in late spring after their flowering is over, to make room for summer bedding plants. Unfortunately this interrupts their normal cycle of growth for after flowering their leaves should go on producing food which helps to make bigger and better bulbs. So they must be lifted carefully with as little root disturbance as possible and replanted at once in a corner of the garden where they may remain undisturbed until their leaves have died down. They may need watering in dry periods. After the leaves have turned brown the bulbs should be lifted and dried off and when the leaves are quite dead they should be pulled off. Then the bulbs are stored in labelled bags or boxes until the time for planting them comes round again.

Bulbs planted in clumps or drifts for garden display should be lifted every three or four years. Late June is the best time. The bulbs are then dried off, cleaned up and divided where necessary and replanted in August, although the poeticus narcissi should be replanted immediately.

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