A sure sign that spring is very near is when daffodils start appearing, whether it’s in the garden, a neighbour’s garden or in the grassy verges along some of our roads. They are always a joy to see and with their bright colour can lighten a dark day. I had planned on buying some cut blooms to add a touch of gold to my living room this weekend but obviously lots of you had had the same idea and they had all been sold.
But, however casual and random the planting may seem to be, to have this explosion of colour we have to start work in the autumn, September to late October is the optimum time. These plants aren’t over fussy about where they are planted and most varieties will thrive in a wide range of soils but they do need good drainage. If the planting site is too damp work in a generous helping of grit. To get the best blooms prepare the site well and add generous quantities of compost and a good sprinkling of bone meal.
If you didn’t manage to plant some daffodils last autumn it isn’t too late. At this time of year most garden centres stock a good selection of pot-grown plants giving you the opportunity to choose from the different varieties. Look for plants with lots of buds with good strong foliage, they will probably just be beginning to show colour. I particularly like the dwarf varieties, my special favourite being ‘Tête-à-Tête’.
There are a few simple rules to help you get a good display over the coming years. Firstly you don’t want the plants to set seed so remove the dead flower heads. Apply a good general-purpose liquid fertiliser directly onto the soil and allow the leaves to die down completely. If you have planted a display of daffodils in your lawn leave that area uncut for at least six weeks until the foliage has completely withered. This all helps to replace the nutrients that have been used by the bulb during flowering.