I like to garden and I like to write. My family might add that I like to tell people all about flowers, so maybe blogging was inevitable. I’ve always kept notes on my garden, but now that I have a small cut flower business, I’ll blog about everything that’s growing in my yard. Some people will be interested in home gardening part, so I’ll write about what you can grow in your own yard, starting with today’s topic of daffodils. But even people who know nothing about flower farming will be also be interested in what’s going on in the cut flower part of my yard, so I’ll update you on that too.
Let’s start with daffodils, which are part of both my home garden and my cut flower sales. In the Floret course Don and I took when we started our business, they told us to say “heirloom scented narcissus” instead of daffodils. Apparently “daffodil” sounds too common to some people. What do you think—are you put off? No? Then let’s stick to saying daffodils. They may be common, but they’re a beautiful sight at the end of winter.
Fall is a perfect time to plant daffodils for spring bloom. I’m writing this in November, when It’s too late to order the uncommon varieties online, but at your local nursery you’ll probably find lots of bagged mixtures of varieties. If you’re reading this at another time of year, make a note that the best time to order online is summer, and in California daffodils can be planted from September through November. My favorites, and ones that naturalize here in Northern California, include are Brackenhurst, Avalon, Pippit, Thalia, Ice Follies, Yellow Cheerfulness and Golden Salome. Naturalize means the bulbs come back year after year, and usually that’s what we all want. I order most online through Colorblends or Brent and Becky’s, but some of these will be available at San Jose area nurseries such as Yamagami’s or Half Moon Bay Nursery.
Plant daffodils now and they’ll bloom in February, maybe earlier or later depending on the variety. Start by locating a sunny place in your garden, then decide whether you want a long row, a squarish patch, or some other shape. Don’t plant one bulb at a time—they’ll look sad and lonely—better to have a mass of daffodils, even if it’s a small mass. Dig out the soil to about 6” deep and place our bulbs in the bottom. A general rule for planting any bulb is to make the hole about twice the height of the bulb, so a bulb that’s about 3 inches gets planted 6” deep. There’s some wiggle room in this rule, and a bulb that’s planted a bit above or below optimum will still come up and bloom, but if you plant too deep the blooms may be late and short-stemmed, having spent too much time growing up to the surface.
Above, clockwise from upper left: mixed daffodils and orange tulip 'Orca', daffodil 'Pippit', daffodil 'Jetfire, mixed bouquets with daffodils and 'Big Eartha' tulip, daffodils as inspiration for my painting.
Daffodils don’t need much water to sprout, and since we get winter rains, I usually don’t water them at all. They don’t need fertilizer either, because the nutrients they need are in the bulb. So after planting in fall, you can relax and ignore them until they bloom. When they bloom you’re gonna thank yourself for your small effort at planting time, and you can cut the blooms for bouquets or leave them in the yard for neighbors to envy.
If you want them to come back year after year, you’ll need to be a little careful after the blooms fade. Now you can fertilize a little, but most importantly, don’t cut down the foliage. Yes, I know it looks a bit untidy, but the plants need to photosynthesize for a while to make fat new bulbs for next year’s flowers. I usually let other plants grow around them to disguise the mess, but I don’t pull off the leaves until they’re brown and dead. Chrysanthemums or daylilies can be planted next to daffodils; since they start growing as daffodils are fading, they’ll distract the eye from yellowing leaves.
That’s all there is to daffodils—one of the easiest things you can grow. And if you want to sound impressive, you can tell your friends you’ve mastered the art of growing heirloom narcissus.