from The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner – intelligent garden design software
“Daffodils that come before the swallow dares, and takes the winds of March with beauty.”
She wore her yellow sun-bonnet,
She wore her greenest gown;
She turned to the south wind
And curtsied up and down.
She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbour:
“Winter is dead.”
The daffodil is the national flower of Wales. On March 1st – St David Day – we dressed up in Welsh National Costume, complete with frilly apron and tall black hat, and pinned on a daffodil. By the end of the day, it was a sorry, droopy little thing, but, still, I always preferred a real daffodil, with its fresh, delicate scent, and cheery yellow flower, to its coarse alternative, the pungent leek.
Even its names are cheerful and pretty – daffodil, daffadowndilly, jonquil, narcissus. The sight of these sunny, flowers swaying their frilly bonnets on tall stems is a real sign that spring has definitely arrived. The flower is instantly recognisable – 6 petals surrounding a trumpet- or cup-shaped corona. Narcissi have been cultivated for hundreds of years and there are numerous cultivars available.
Some cultivars have reflexed petals, as though swept back by the March breezes. The flowers may appear singly, in pairs, triplets or more, at the top of tall stems rising up from a spreading clump of strap-like foliage.
While some garden varieties are orange or even pink, the traditional yellow or white are my favourite. Many have received the Award of Garden Merit (AGM) from the Royal Horticultural Society.
Narcissus ‘Actaea’ has pure white, sweetly scented petals, with small yellow cups, rimmed with red. A solitary flower is carried on each stem in late spring and early summer, growing to 45cm. (AGM)
Narcissus ‘Thalia’ is slightly shorter, at 35cm height. It has narrow, slightly reflexed, soft white petals and cups. Two nodding flowers are carried on each stem in mid-spring.
In my garden, it flowers at the same time as the Magnolia stellata and the matching, fluttering, pure white petals illuminate the garden as it emerges from the coppers and browns of winter.
The smaller narcissi are charming additions to spring borders. Narcissus ‘Jetfire’ has strongly reflexed, golden petals, with long, orange trumpets. It grows to 20cm. (AGM)
The popular Narcissus ‘Tête-à-Tête’ has slightly reflexed, golden petals, with deeper golden cups. Twin flowers, sometimes triplets, are carried on each stem in early spring, growing to 15cm. (AGM)
Narcissus ‘Rip Van Winkle’ has attractive double flowerheads, the perianth petals pointed and flounced like a fairy’s petticoat. Yellow flowers, with a hint of green, are carried on each stem in early spring. It will reach 14cm.
I love Narcissus ‘Hawera’ for its light, ethereal beauty. It has slightly reflexed, soft yellow petals and fairly short cups. Up to 5 delicate, nodding flowers are carried on each stem in late spring. It grows to 18cm (AGM)