One of our first harbingers of spring out here in the West: the green, fresh leaves of daffodils, popping up from the cold soil. A late blizzard doesn’t faze them at all — they just lean over protectively, then push up again through the melting snow.
Technically, they’re known as Narcissus — a hardy perennial grown from a fleshy bulb that’s cold-hardy, and grows in a wide variety of environments. (Provided they get some chilly weather, that is — daffodils need colder temperatures during their resting season.) They also go by other names, including “narcissus” and “jonquils.”
Daffodils range from early to late, and come in a bonanza of sizes and colors, ranging from tiny yellow “fairy” daffs to huge “King Alfred” types. Most are yellow, white or some combination of those colors. (Orange, too.) Less common are colors ranging from apricot to nearly red, as well as lavender.
Daffodils are easy to grow. Look for plump, healthy-looking bulbs, and plant them at least 2-4 weeks before your last freeze. (They can be forced, after a suitable cooling period, indoors, as well. Plant the bulbs outside after they’ve bloomed, and the plants will grow again next year.)
They’re most reasonably-priced in large bags of 20, 30 or 50 — for a natural look, throw a handful of bulbs in the air, then plant them where they land in your flowerbed. Since their leaves and blooms are finished by the time other plants start their major growth, daffodils are perfect for filling in around established perennials, as well as groups of annuals. Some people like to plant them in lawns and around trees and bushes, for the same reason.
Unlike tulips, which sustained Dutch populations during WWII, daffodils aren’t edible. That makes them an excellent choice if your backyard has visiting deer. (Note: friends with woodsy backyards have said that their deer do eat the daffs, on occasion. Maybe it depends on the type, or what else is available.) Our free-range chickens don’t seem to value them, either.
What’s especially nice: daffodils can also grow your income! The poet husband-and-wife combo, Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, sold many bunches of daffodils in springtime, cut from the hundreds that bordered their Devon, England property. A crisp bunch of daffodils, rubber-banded for ease, makes a cheerful bouquet, and sells for $3-5 each. (They also make nice presents.)
Plan now to look for bulbs, when they become available. As they grow, the daffodil bulbs will continue to form new bulblets…which form new plants next season. They’re perfect for naturalizing, and mix well with other spring bulbs, like hyacinth (shown below), grape hyacinth and tulips.
While you’re admiring this season’s daffodils, keep their cheerful blossoms in mind for your garden next year.