Not Your Grandma's Daffodils

I’ve always been a little “meh” about daffodils. Ten years ago I actually moved all the ones that came with our house from the front yard around to the back because I find them a bit… lurid, I guess. I realize this is a matter of personal taste, and I hope I’m not offending your floral sensibilities too badly, but I don’t care much for any process yellow flowers.

It’s a real shame, I thought back then, that daffodils are so colored because they really are the first genuine confirmation of spring’s arrival. Well, lucky for me (and for canary yellow-flower-haters everywhere), there are new (much much prettier) daffodils available these days! The old King Alfreds you remember from Grandma’s garden are no longer our only narcissus option.

Here are some of the gorgeous varieties I’ve grown this season. As you can see, these are not your grandmother’s daffodils!

Large-cupped Pink Pride is a very cheery daffodil. It’s got big white petals with a short peachy-pink trumpet and a yellow middle.

Pink Pride really is so lovely in the field. So charming!

Pink Pride really is so lovely in the field. So charming!

Cassata is a split corona so it’s got upwards-facing blossoms that are more like cups than the traditional trumpet shape of the old-school daffs. They sort of resemble a hibiscus in form. Cassata is strong and has flat, lemony-yellow cups against pure white petals. The cups fade after a while and it’s white-on-white (love).

This Cassata's gone white after more than a week in the cooler.

This Cassata's gone white after more than a week in the cooler.

Falmouth Bay is so pristine! It’s super tall and it’s got clean white outer petals and a small white cup with a dot of yellow-green at the middle. It’s almost statuesque in the garden. And very dignified. I love it.

Petit Four is a very interesting daffodil. It’s a double, with white outer petals and apricot-pink, very ruffled centers. This is a very fancy, very feminine flower.

Petit Four is in the jar second from the left.

Petit Four is in the jar second from the left.

Four more doubles that I’ve loved having in the spring gardens: Sherborne, Delnashaugh, Acropolis, and Replete.

Sherborne is yellow! I love it because it’s soo robust and frilly.

Delnashaugh has a special place in my heart. It’s just so gorgeous. The outer petals are an eggshell white and the corona is a pretty yellowy-peachy-pink with ruffles of white mixed in.

I adore the pale green stripes on Delnashaugh's petals.

I adore the pale green stripes on Delnashaugh's petals.

From left: unopened Falmouth Bay, Sherborne, Acropolis, Delnashaugh

From left: unopened Falmouth Bay, Sherborne, Acropolis, Delnashaugh

Replete is similar to Delnashaugh but with more extensive, fluttery pink petals. Very romantic.

Acropolis wins my top prize this season. Stems for days and she’s got these huge, elegant blooms that are shaped almost like gardenias. The outer petals are pure white and there’s this gorgeous bright coral swirl in the corona. The kicker: Acropolis’ perfume is so strong and so amazing. Truly, it’s intoxicating.

Good Lord, this flower! The fragrance on Acropolis is heartbreaking.

Good Lord, this flower! The fragrance on Acropolis is heartbreaking.

Aren’t these beautiful daffodils? So many people have told me they’d never have guessed these gorgeous, ruffly blooms are daffodils. I assure you, they couldn’t be easier to grow! They’re incredibly low-maintenance, they’re disease-free, they’re deer resistant, and many varieties are naturalizing, which means you’ll have more and more every year. Plant bulbs in fall and by spring you’ll be positively awash in beauty!

Here are a few planting and cutting tips:

§  Plant daffodils in fall. You want the soil to be consistently around 50* (or cooler) when you put the bulbs in. Here in Zone 6a that’s usually late October.

§  Choose a well-draining spot that gets plenty of sun in spring. Daffodils, like all bulbs, hate to be too wet. Standing water encourages the bulbs to rot. Avoid that.

§  I like to plant daffodils in bunches. I usually do groups of 15 or 20. Keep in mind as you select a planting location that, depending on the variety, they’re likely to multiply.

§  Dig out your selected area to a depth of about 8 inches. Mix in a handful of bulb fertilizer, some compost, and set the bulbs in at a depth of about 3 inches. In terms of spacing, place the bulbs about as far apart from each other as they are wide.

§  Once your bulbs are arranged, water gently but deeply and then replace the soil you removed. I add a bit of compost to the top and stamp everything down well.

§  Remember to mark your bulbs with a stake or other label so you don’t forget where you’ve put what!

§  Narcissi are wonderful as cut flowers! It’s best to cut when buds are colored but haven’t yet opened. If you cut at this point, when they’re kind of drooping their heads instead of standing straight up, you can get a week in the vase, no problem.

§  Wear gloves when you cut because narcissus sap is a major skin irritant (for me, anyway).

§  That sap is also toxic to other flowers. If you make a mixed bouquet, your daffodils will kill their vase-mates unless you condition your daffodil stems prior to vasing them. To do this, simply keep daffodils in a jar of cool water by themselves for a few hours before mixing them in with others. The stems will cure and the sap will stop flowing. (If you re-cut stems at any point, you must do this again.)

Isn’t that easy? The hardest part of growing these beauties is the wintertime waiting. But that’s behind us now. It’s daffodil season! Get out there and enjoy it!