2017's bulb of the year: The daffodil
2017's bulb of the year
Daffodils, a spring-blooming, self-propagating perennial, originated in Europe, predominantly Spain, Portugal, France and Austria, where they are native to meadows and woody forests. Some naturalized in Great Britain where they were introduced between 1400-1600 during the Roman occupation. From there, narcissus bulbs were introduced to North America by pioneer women who made the long ocean voyage to America to build a new future. Given limited space for bringing personal goods, they sewed dormant daffodil bulbs into the hems of their skirts to plant at their new homes to remind them of the gardens they left behind. The remnant ancestors of those bulbs persist today in older gardens in the eastern half of the US, making them a part of our heritage for over 300 years!
The official botanical genus name for Daffodils is narcissus, which comes from the Greek word ‘Narkissos’ and its base word ‘Narke’, meaning sleep or numbness, attributed to the sedative effect from the alkaloids in its plants. The plant family is Amaryllidaceae, meaning all members are poisonous, which is perfect for gardeners because that makes them critter proof. Daffodil is actually its common name, not a scientific or Latin name.
Unlike many spring flowering bulbs, daffodils are not eaten by mice, voles, squirrels, rabbits or deer because they are poisonous and distasteful, which helps to keep pets and children from ingesting them. Daffodils are great for picking and arranging in cut flower bouquets, and they are also perfect for container planting and forcing.
The ideal daffodil planting time depends on where you live. In zones 3-5, you should plant in Septembernovember.
The Royal Horticultural Society divides narcissus into the following divisions based on type, size, or number of flowers.
Division 1 – Trumpet (One flower to a stem; the cup is as long as or longer than the petals.), e.g. N. ‘Bravoure’.
Division 2 – Large Cup (One flower to a stem; the cup is more than onethird but less than equal to the length of the petals.), e.g. N. ‘Accent’.
Division 3 – Small Cup (One flower to a stem; the cup is not more than one-third the length of the petals.), e.g. N. ‘Barrett Browning’.
Division 4 – Double (One or more flowers to a stem, with doubling of the petals or the cup or both.), e.g. N. ‘Tahiti’.
Division 5 – Triandrus (Usually two or more nodding flowers to a stem; petals are reflexed.), e.g. N. ‘Thalia’.
Division 6 – Cyclamineus (One flower to a stem; petals are significantly reflexed; flower at an acute angle to the stem, with a very short neck.), e.g. N. ‘Rapture’.
Division 7 – Jonquilla (One to five flowers to a stem; petals spreading or reflexed; flowers usually fragrant; foliage is often reed-like or at least very narrow and dark green.), e.g. N. ‘Golden Echo’.
Division 8 – Tazetta (Usually three to twenty flowers to a stout stem; leaves broad; petals spreading, not reflexed; flowers fragrant.), e.g. N. ‘Falconet’.
Division 9 – Poeticus (Usually one flower to a stem; petals pure white; cup is usually disc-shaped, with a green or yellow center and red rim; flowers fragrant.), e.g. N. ‘Actaea’.
Division 10 – Split Corona (Cup split – usually for more than half its length.), e.g. N. ‘Tripartite’.
Division 11 – Other (Daffodil cultivars which do not fit the definition of any other division.), e.g. N. ‘Tete-atete’ (miniature).
Division 12 – Botanical (All species and wild or reputedly wild variants and hybrids.), e.g. N. obvallaris.
Daffodil bulbs should be spaced three times the width of the bulb apart, or four to six inches on center, depending on the size of the bulb. As for planting depth, daffodils should be planted three times the height of the bulb deep, or four to six inches to the bottom of the hole, depending on the size of the bulb. Planting in full sun is preferable, but partial shade (at least a half day) is acceptable.
Digging and dividing is normally not necessary if the bulbs are planted in fertile soil, have sufficient water during the spring growing season, and if they get plenty of sunlight for six weeks after the blooms are finished. However, if you do want to divide them, do so as soon as the foliage begins to turn yellow. Dig under the whole clump with a spading fork, shake off the loose soil and carefully separate the roots of the large bulbs from one another. If daughter bulbs are attached to the mother bulbs, it’s best to leave them together - they will separate underground when the time is right. The best choice is to replant bulbs immediately after digging, however, if storing is necessary, store dry in mesh bags with plenty of air circulation Removing spent flowers is nice for aesthetic reasons, but because most hybrid daffodils have very little nectar and have heavy, distasteful pollen which is seldom spread by the wind or insects, few are accidently pollinated. Therefore, few produce real seeds which would drain the bulb’s energy needed to produce next year’s bloom... so it’s not really necessary to deadhead daffodils.
Narcissus 'Golden Bells'.
Narcissus 'Dutchmaster Ice-follies'.
Narcissus 'Mary Gay Lirette'.
Small cup Daffodil.
Narcissus 'Moonlight Sensation'.
Dig a trench for mass plantings.
A daffodil bulb ready to plant.