For many, daffodils epitomise spring; historically they symbolised chivalry and new beginnings. Today for many of us daffodils represent hope.
The quintessential daffodil is often pictured as bright yellow in colour, with a trumpet shaped flower, but in fact the daffodil has a long history of extensive breeding and consequently today there are a huge variety of daffodil flower colours – yellow, white, orange, pink and green, and many different flower types, and sizes of daffodil available. Indeed there are over 30,000 names in the Royal Horticultural Society Daffodil Registration Database. All daffodils belong to the genus Narcissus; they are part of the Amaryllidaceae family, which also includes snowdrops and Alliums.
Daffodils are wonderfully versatile; they can be grown successfully in containers, flower beds and borders, parks, meadows and grassy areas, banks, slopes, woods and orchards. Daffodils are very resilient and come back each year, heralding the start of spring, with no need to lift and replant. Rodents and squirrels leave daffodil bulbs alone, which is a real boon if you suffer with these pests! Thriving in a sunny or partly shaded spot, they are very easy to grow and can be propagated by seed, division of the bulbs and chipping.
I utterly adore scented daffodils and revel in their delicious fragrance each spring. Narcissus ‘Fragrant Rose’, named as its fragrance is reportedly similar to that of a rose, has a delicious scent which although it does have a definite rose character to its fragrance at times, the scent essentially reminds me of the sweetness of hyacinths. If you enjoy the heady scent of hyacinths and jasmine, you may also enjoy growing Narcissus ‘Cheerfulness’, N. ‘Geranium’, N. ‘Sweetness’ and N. ‘Bridal Crown’. These daffodil varieties have all been awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit and are superb daffodils that I just couldn’t be without. These scented varieties, and indeed all daffodils, make ideal cut flowers and a wonderful gift.
Daffodils can bring hope to patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, as the plant compound galanthamine can delay the onset of symptoms. Trials found that daffodils grown under stress at high altitude in the Black Mountains in Wales produced more galanthamine than those grown under normal conditions. Narciclasine, another compound present in daffodil bulbs, may be used in the future to treat aggressive brain cancers; studies have also suggested that compounds found in daffodils could help treat Leukaemia, skin and ovarian cancer and depression.
August and September are an ideal time to plant daffodil bulbs; early planting gives sufficient time for the roots to get established before the cold weather sets in, but now is the ideal time to make your selection as daffodils are in flower. Visit botanical gardens now to see different daffodil varieties in flower, inhale their scent and get an idea of their character. Many gardens will even have a handy plant label marking the daffodil blooms, so you can take down the names of your favourite varieties, and order bulbs to plant later in the year.
Many different varieties of daffodil can be enjoyed at RHS Garden Wisley, at The National Trust’s Winkworth Arboretum in Godalming, and Nymans in Handcross, West Sussex. West Dean Woods near Chichester has a large colony of wild daffodils; it is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a working woodland, and a private estate, so access is restricted; however a public bridleway running along the western edge provides an excellent vantage point to view the daffodils.
This article was first published in the March 2015 edition of Vantage Point Magazine.
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For information, dates, and details of 2017 Daffodil Shows and Competitions, please click here.
For information on beautiful gardens, with large collections of daffodils, to visit and daffodil events to attend in 2017, please click here.
To read about The RHS London Spring Plant Extravaganza 2016 and see pictures of a new daffodil – a double flowered sport of Narcissus ‘Tête-à-tête’, please click here.
For dates and details of specialist plant fairs, sales and swaps being held in 2017, please click here.
For information on using daffodils as cut flowers, please click here.
For a list of suppliers of quality exhibition, heritage or garden daffodils, please click here.
For more information about daffodils, please click here.
To read about buying British-grown, seasonal cut flowers, please click here.
For tips and advice on gardening on a budget, please click here.
For information on terrarium and bottle gardens, please click here.
For gardening advice for mid-March to mid-April, please click here.
For gardening advice for mid-April to mid-May, please click here.