19 Mar 2015 Daffodil: The cheerful yellow flower that signals spring
by Jan Spann
Yellow is the first color that attracts the eye to a design, and maybe that’s why the daffodil is such a popular garden flower. Or maybe it’s because it just makes us happy to watch the blooms pop up in late winter to announce that spring is coming soon.
Daffodils are the bulbs you see along back roads, showing up where long-gone homesteads once stood. Daffodils are the bulbs to teach your children and grandchildren the joy of gardening because they are practically indestructible. With more than 25 species and 13,000-plus different hybrid varieties, you’re sure to find several favorites to grace your garden.
Narcissus is the Latin name of the whole genus of these bulbous plants in the amaryllis family (Narcissus is both singular and plural). Daffodil is the English name for the same genus. Jonquil is one of the 13 divisions of daffodils. The terms narcissistic and narcotic are derived from the name Narcissus, which has its roots in a Greek myth.
Daffodils are native to the countries around the Mediterranean Sea, primarily western Europe and North Africa and are now found worldwide. The earliest known reference to daffodils can be found in a sixth century A.D. writing of the Prophet Mohammed. Colonists from Europe took this favorite bulb with them when they set out for new worlds, and now you find daffodils grown in most every country.
The 13 daffodil divisions established by the Royal Horticultural Society of English can help you venture beyond the standard yellow trumpet. Daffodils fall into one of three size categories of standard, intermediate and miniature. Color combinations range from white, green, yellow, pink and red-orange.
Brent and Becky’s Bulbs (BrentAndBeckysBulbs.com) offers quality bulbs and categorizes stock by the 13 divisions. You can examine the diversity while considering fragrance, size and color as well as funnel shapes, doubles and number of blooms per stem.
Daffodils may be the ideal perennial. They survive in all but the hottest or coldest climates; they are tolerant of most soils with adequate drainage; they are drought resistant except in spring; they are almost pest free; and they have simple nutritional requirements.
It is best to plant bulbs in the fall once the ground temperature is below 60 degrees. If you miss this date, you can plant as late as February or early March. Those flowers will bloom later the first year and have shorter stems.
Plant bulbs at a depth of three to four times the height of the size of the bulb. If the soil is heavy with clay, amend with some organic matter like compost and plant the bulb a bit more shallow than average. Place the base of the bulb at the bottom of the hole with the tip facing up. Cover the planted bulbs with a layer of mulch to diminish weed growth and retain moisture.
Daffodils tolerate full sun and partial shade. Most types of daffodils are extremely winter hardy and will grow in a wide range of climates. It’s especially important to leave the stems remaining attached until they are brown and dry, as this provides nutrients the bulbs need to re-bloom the next year.
Each season — and especially spring — offers the gardener new beginnings and glorious garden chores. The first signs of yellow daffodils around town or in my garden make me happy. I know that days will soon be longer and warmer, and my garden will come to life with more spring blooms.
Poet William Wordsworth praised the happiness that daffodils afforded him: “I wandered lonely as a cloud, That floats on high o’er vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd, A host, of golden daffodils.”
A Conway resident, Jan Spann has been gardening for 20-plus years and has been involved with the Faulkner County Master Gardeners for 11 years. She and her husband, Randy, have five children and eight grandchildren.