Ashridge Blog & Recipes

Daffodils for Spring Splendour

I always think of March as the yellow month. As spring arrives, gardens explode with colour as forsythia, primroses, crocuses, and daffodils come into bloom.

By choosing a mix of early and late flowering varieties, you can extend the "yellow season" and fill your borders with cheerful blooms right through from January to May. The next few weeks are the ideal time to plant daffodil bulbs, so here are some suggestions of varieties and combinations that will light up your spring garden next year.

Container Displays

Dwarf daffodils are perfect for pots, either en masse or combined with other spring-flowering bulbs. Try a Tazetta daffodil like N. 'Canaliculatus' or N. 'Minnow' with their multi-stemmed profusion and heavenly fragrance. Both these dwarf varieties flower from March to April, following on from crocuses and pre-empting the tulips if you fill a container with a mixed ‘bulb lasagne’.

For colourful displays throughout February and March, N. ‘Tête-à-tête’ has vibrant yellow reflexed petals with multiple flowers on each stem. N. ‘Thalia’ is one of my favourites for its sophisticated pale ivory flowers with slightly reflexed petals. It makes an elegant statement planted alongside white and sky-blue muscari, or combined with other pale daffodils such as N. ‘Cheerfulness’, N. ‘Ice Follies’ and N. ‘Mount Hood’. Named after J.R.R. Tolkien’s Elven realm, N. ‘Loth Lorien’ is another beautiful variety ideally suited for containers. With its small lemon-yellow cups set in the centre of creamy white outer petals, this dainty daffodil is also perfect for naturalising in lawns.

Beds and Borders

Daffodils and other spring-flowering bulbs are invaluable to add interest to areas of the garden that will be filled with herbaceous perennials later in the season. We begin in February and early March with daffodils like N. ‘Tamara’, N. ‘February Gold’, N. ‘Topolino’ and another of my favourites, N. ‘Jetfire’, with its fiery orange trumpets and swept-back perianth (outer petals). The season continues into late March and April with varieties such as N. ‘Acropolis’, N. ‘Bestseller’ and N. ‘Gigantic Star’. And for colour into late spring, try elegant N. ‘Hawera’ and the creamy double flowers of N. ‘Cheerfulness’.

Scented Daffodils

For delicious spring scent, you can’t beat jonquil or rush daffodils. This type of narcissus has been cultivated since the 18th century, often for its perfumed oils. N. ‘Pipit’ (a dwarf jonquil) has pale yellow flowers with up to four blooms on each stem. It flowers in April and is an excellent choice to add fragrance to a mid-spring display.

Poeticus var. recurvus (the pheasant’s eye daffodil) also has a delightful sweet and spicy fragrance. This variety is particularly effective in containers by doorways and paths so the scent can be savoured as you walk around the garden. In addition to wonderful fragrance, it has pure white petals surrounding a soft yellow corona (the trumpet) edged in contrasting deep red. If I could only grow one daffodil, I’d choose the ol'pheasant’s eye.

Daffodils for Naturalising

Poet John Clare refers to extensive drifts of daffodils in their natural habitat as the ‘wood daffodillies’ and many varieties create a truly uplifting sight naturalised under trees and in grassy areas. For a mix of daffodils and narcissi that will happily naturalise, try our Narcissus Varieties for Naturalising Collection, which comprises seven beautiful varieties that will bring the spring woodland vibe right into your garden. With colour that lasts through March and April, even into May, this collection includes some real gems like N. ‘King Alfred’ with its classic golden blooms, N. ‘Golden Ducat’ with layers of bright yellow pointed petals and N. ‘Sempre Avanti’, which has pure white flowers with contrasting flared orange trumpets.

Planting Daffodil Bulbs

Daffodils are so easy to plant and I love to spend time burying my bulbs, knowing that next year I’ll be surprised and delighted once again at the uplifting sight of the flowers emerging from the winter gloom. As a rule of thumb, daffodil bulbs prefer a sunny spot in well drained, fertile soil. Plant 10-15cm deep from late summer to early autumn, preferably before the end of September. Water well after planting; then there’s nothing to do but wait for the fantastic display next spring.

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