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  • Writer's pictureJulia Watson

The Early Birds - Daffodils and Iceland Poppies

bouquet of daffodils and tulips
Daffodil 'Brackenhurst' with white tulips and statice

The first plants to bloom here in our gardens are daffodils and Iceland poppies. Different varieties of daffodils bloom at slightly different times, so we have about six weeks of changing blooms. Maybe it’s better to call them heirloom narcissus, because some of them aren’t your standard bright yellow blooms. Daffodil is the common name for the flowers in the Narcissus family. In this group are tiny star-like blooms, big ruffled blooms of creamy apricot, pure white flowers and lots of other forms in between.

‘Brackenhurst’ is the earliest of our daffs, and it’s an eye-popping duet of yellow and deep orange. Next comes the heirloom narcissus ‘Avalanche’, a multi-flowered type. ‘Golden Salome’, ‘Pipit’ and the ruffled pastel ‘Replete” are in the middle of our daffodil season. ‘Avalon’ comes later; it’s a regal looking bloom on long stems. Last is my favorite of all narcissus – pure white ‘Thalia.’

'Brackenhurst' is our earliest daffodil

Top row: Daffodil 'Avalon'; mixed bouquets of early daffodils

Middle row: Bouquet with a bright Iceland poppy in the center; daffodil 'Pippit'

Bottom row: Iceland poppy at "cracked bud" stage; mixed mini bouquets of daffodils, poppies and tulips. The tiny blooms at the right are 'Hawera.'

Iceland poppies were a little surprising to me when I began to grow flowers to sell. I thought of them as ubiquitous bedding plants in screaming bright shades of orange and yellow. I tried growing them from seed and found that it’s hard – really hard! But bedding plants or plugs from a wholesale grower are tough little things once in the ground. They don’t care about a frosty night and they aren’t bothered by our local enemies, slugs and snails. If the blooms are harvested at "cracked-bud" stage (when the fuzzy green pods start to open and show a sliver of color), they can last about a week in the vase.

This year I ordered a different strain – Hummingbird – and unfortunately, it’s slower to start than the more common strains I’ve grown over the past few years. They’re supposed to have large, pastel flowers that store well. So far, the plants are almost a month behind what I’ve grown before. But the jury’s still out, and they may start pumping out beautiful blooms soon.

bouquet of flowers, daffodil, sweet pea
Heirloom narcissus'Thalia' with early sweet peas

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