Plant of the month

Each month, OGV sub-committee member, Gayle Parkes presents the 'Plant of the month'. She also posts to OGV's Instagram - make sure you check back regularly for her latest post. This month Gayle brings us the daffodil.

Narcissus is a genus of predominantly spring flowering perennial plants of the amaryllis family, Amaryllidaceae. Various common names including daffodil, narcissus and jonquil are used to describe all or some members of the genus.

Well, I can’t really say I have a “host of golden daffodils” but I certainly do have a few that are giving me great pleasure at the moment! About three years ago I bought a packet of five Tete A Tete daffodil bulbs and planted them in a shallow round terracotta pot. They all flowered and the display was fabulous. The second year my poor neglected pot of daffs performed dismally, which was not surprising. With a positive outlook and not much to lose I thought I would try popping the bulbs in the ground, this time with love, care and some fertiliser. The rewards of my labour have been astonishing. I had of course forgotten where I had strategically placed them so it was very exciting to see their fresh new shoots appearing in nooks and crannies where I had placed them to look like they were growing “naturally”. These sweet little miracles of nature have brightened my lockdown considerably and ensured a stroll around the garden every day. 

Nothing says "spring" like an explosion of colour, and there’s not much that can add a colour blast quite the way a daffodil can. There are SO many types to choose from with new cultivars being introduced annually! Yellow ones, pink ones, white ones, tall showy daffs, tiny cute daffs, woodland type, scented jonquils, trumpet, butterfly, doubles, pheasant eye, miniature, the list goes on. Daffodils are a hardy and easy perennial to grow and will bring joy year after year. 
Daffodils are happy in full-sun or part-shade, but don't plant them in dense shade or they won't flower. Like all bulbs, daffodils enjoy well-drained soil. Add well-rotted compost or similar soil conditioning to heavier soils to improve drainage. Bulbs can be planted using the usual guideline of the top of the bulb being twice the height of the bulb below the surface but they are fairly adaptable. In sandy soil bulbs can be planted slightly deeper than those in heavy soils. 
Daffodils generally have the best visual appeal when planted in clumps rather than in rows, the larger the clump the better the wow factor. Many gardeners plant the bulbs not just by the dozens but by the hundreds!  They look wonderful in a woodland garden under deciduous trees or between shrubs in a border. They're great to grow in pots or as mass drifts in the garden. Daffodil flowers also make for great springtime cut flowers and the perfume from a vase full of jonquils will waft dreamily through your home.
Feed your daffs with complete fertiliser when the flowers are open as this feeds the bulb for the following year's flower. For the same reason, when the flowers have finished, let the foliage die down naturally because the bulb continues to store nutrients. Leave them for six to eight weeks or even longer if you can. It looks a little tatty, but that's one of those things you do with daffodils.

It is not necessary to lift daffodils every year, probably every three years is enough. The best guide is that if a clump is not flowering very well, that is if flowers are becoming fewer and fewer, this means that the clump has become too crowded. Simply allow the flowers and foliage to die back naturally over spring. Then around the end of November/start of December, dig them up, shake of the excess dirt, store them somewhere cool and airy over summer, then replant them in autumn. 
The many varieties of these wonderful spring flowering bulbs are easy to find. There are several specialist bulb growers who sell online so why not request a copy of their catalogues. Your local garden centre will have a variety for you to choose from as well. Take a walk around your garden now and make a mental note of an area to plant some next year. They appear in our nurseries in plenty of time to plant as the weather cools down through autumn. Then simply sit back, relax and wait for your wonderful flowers to add bright spots of sunshine that will return to your garden year after year.