Daffodils for Every Garden

It’s early March at Gibbs Gardens and the daffodils are blooming !  This is a good time to set the record straight with a few facts about Daffodils. To begin, all daffodils belong to the genus Narcissus, the scientific name for daffodils. There are many different types including fragrant selections, miniatures and doubles. Some varieties have been grown for hundreds of years while others have only been in cultivation for a short time. According to the American Daffodil Society there are over 25, 000 registered cultivars. At Gibbs Gardens, a designated American Daffodil Society Display Garden, we grow over 100 different selections. To fully appreciate the variety on display one should plan to visit the gardens at least three different times in spring from March to mid-April to view, early, mid and late blooming types. The blossoms span a period of weeks and in total add up to more than 20 million blooms.

Narcissus 'February Gold' vertical March 11, 2015
Daffodils are great for naturalizing under deciduous trees.

During early March, very early and early blooming varieties of daffodils abound including ‘February Gold,’ ‘Gigantic Star’, ‘Ice Follies,’ and one of my favorites ‘Tete-a-Tete.’ Growing only 6 to 8 inches tall, ‘Tete-a-Tete’ is ideal for rock gardens, naturalized plantings and containers. At Gibbs Gardens they create ribbons of buttercup yellow on the hillsides and in open woodlands.

Narcissus 'Ice Follies' and 'Gigantic Star' March 16, 2011
Narcissus ‘Ice Follies’ and ‘Gigantic Star’ in March
Narcissus 'Ice Follies'
Narcissus ‘Ice Follies’

Mid-season selections at the Gardens include ‘Carlton,’ ‘Fortune,’ (Introduced in 1917, this cultivar is still a strong performer in southern gardens.) ‘Red Goblet’ and ‘Scarlet O’Hara.’

Narcissus ‘Carlton’

Jim points out that many of the late blooming cultivars are fragrant including ‘Cheerfulness,’ ‘Yellow Cheerfulness,’ ‘Geranium, ‘ ‘Salome’ and ‘Trevithian.’  Additional late flowering selections include ‘Pink Pride,’  ‘Professor Einstein,’ ‘ Sir Winston Churchill’ and ‘ Thalia.’

Narcissus ‘Cheerfulness’ has a delicious fragrance.

Planting Daffodils in the Garden

Plant daffodils in a well drained soil, preferably one that has been amended with organic materials, and site them where they will receive full sun or part shade. (The best time to plant daffodils is in the fall but if you receive some as a gift in the spring, get them in the ground immediately.   Don’t expect blooms until the following year.

Once established, these resilient perennials will reward you for years to come with their cheerful and often fragrant flowers.  Another great trait of daffodils is their resistance to deer and other critters. (There is a poisonous alkaloid in the bulbs so deer won’t eat them.)

Add daffodils to your garden in beds under shrubs for a welcome layer of early spring color like the combination pictured here of Narcissus ‘Fortune’ with the Rice paper plant, also known as Edgeworthia.   Plant them in large drifts for a dramatic effect or combine them with other bulbs including  Ipheion , Scillas and species tulips. Unlike large hybrid tulips which don’t persist in the garden, species tulips come back year after year.

Narcissus 'Fortune' with Edgeworthia

Companions for daffodils, like hellebores or daylilies, help mask daffodil foliage as it ripens off and the blooms have finished. Don’t cut back daffodil foliage until 1/3 of it has turned yellow. This will help ensure that you have good blooms next year, as the bulbs build up starches.

Daffodils are diverse, dazzling and easy to grow. And, while I don’t believe in low maintenance gardening, daffodils demand little and offer great rewards.