From The Garden by P. Allen Smith

From the Garden: Daffodils On My Mind

I believe there is a small part within all of us that is delighted each spring to see the first daffodils in bloom. They certainly are among the bravest of flowers, one of the first to herald the arrival of spring.

A cheerful mainstay at Moss Mountain Farm, these perennial bulbs transform an ordinary farm field into an undulating, golden blanket of bloom. Over the course of their most floriferous month, March, these flowers reach a heightened pitch mid-month, with early and late bloomers bookending the March crescendo to extend the season.

I should note that we have blooms as early as January and as late as the first week of May. This range is less about the zone in which we garden and more about the varieties or ‘cultivars’ of daffodils we choose. I purposely stretch the season to almost five months on our zone 8 farm by choosing specific daffodils.

We always start with the arrival of Rynveld’s Early Sensation, as it’s a notoriously early bloomer. Some years it can be seen flowering the first week of January. We end the season with some unnamed tazetta types that have been at Moss Mountain since time immemorial, usually the first week of May. During this range of bloom, I try to plant enough of a single variety for cutting and bringing indoors without making too much of a dent in the display. I prefer to pick in bundles of the same type. Simple and bold is best. We apply that outdoors as well. While wandering our fields, you’ll see a pattern of natural drifts of like kind.

Each year we try to plant a few new varieties, including cultivars that are the ‘Johnny-come-latelies’ among narcissus hybridizers. Daffodils mainly come from Holland, but there are also English, Irish and American breeders. One recent favorite of mine is a double type called Replete. Its soft salmon and cream corona and cream collar are ideal for certain rooms in the house. It looks like a yummy dessert. It’s worth mentioning that deer will not eat daffodils of any kind.

For the best selection of these newer varieties, the earlier in the season one can purchase the bulbs, the better. I try to get my order in by early September. Bulb planting time can be more relaxed, if not forgiving. I’ve planted daffodils as early as October and as late as January. As long as the bulbs have been stored in a cool, dark place and haven’t gone soft, get them into the ground. Also worth mentioning: While storing bulbs in a refrigerator is a good idea, they can be damaged when stored with produce. Apples emit ethylene gas that destroys the flower embryo.

Daffodils make terrific company with other spring bulbs. At the front of the season, they harmonize with crocus, and later, with Spanish Bluebells and Snowflakes. Early perennials such as Phlox, Heuchera and Virginia Bluebells also work well with daffodils.

Think about where you can add some in your garden. If you get the itch to see a wide variety, plan a visit to see us at Moss Mountain Farm in March.

P. Allen Smith is an author, conservationist, and TV host of Garden Home on PBS and Garden Style (check your local listings). He uses his Arkansas Home, Moss Mountain Farm, to promote the local food movement, organic gardening and the preservation of heritage poultry. For tours of the farm, visit pallensmith.com/tours.

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