Diddy daffs

You don’t need much space or skill to grow diddy or mini daffs (narcissus), simply plant the bulbs in pots or borders through September and October and wait! These dainty plants, are completely winter-proof and without too much effort will poke their noses through frosted ground in early spring

For a dazzling display, plant masses in spots where they can be seen when you draw the curtains in the morning. Aim to cover every inch of bare soil and a painterly picture will emerge as if by magic, when buds begin to pop from early spring.

For your best-ever spring garden, stagger planting times as well as varieties to enjoy a succession of colour that will last the whole season. Cleverly using them as gold studs to brighten groundcover and to outline existing beds with a shiny ribbons.

Beautify your lawn by simply throwing bulbs up in the air and planting them exactly where they land. Be aware though, that you’ll have to wait until June before you can mow as bulb leaves need to be left intact to produce a future display.

Or grow them in pots on the patio. Use John Innes compost and stand the pots in a sheltered spot outdoors and bring them into the limelight when the flower buds break. For maximum effect stick to just one variety of daffodils per pot and plant containers with a double layer of bulbs. The first layer goes slightly deeper than usual and the bulbs pencil width apart.

Ideal varieties for patio pots are the multi-headed golden Tete-a-Tete, the shaggy flowered Rip van Winkle, lemon-coloured Hawera and the slightly shorter, sweetly scented Baby Moon that has buttercup yellow blooms. For large containers consider taller varieties – up to 40cm tall, such as Cheerfulness that produces white sweetly fragrant flowers. Pick pastel shades to plant with pale yellow varieties and for a stylish monochrome theme mix white narcissus with the black grass Ophiopogon planiscapus Nigrescens.

If there are to be any delays in producing a spectacular spring show, it will be because the bulbs are planted too deep. The ideal is to plant at three times the height of the bulb. Take care also, not to press the bulbs down too hard, as doing this may compact the soil and when the roots emerge, push the plants out of the ground.

Narcissi make great cut flowers lasting up to a week in the vase. I love them jumbled up in large jugs on the table. Be careful mixing with other flower types as their stems give off a compound that is toxic to other flowers and soak their stems in warm water before displaying to stop the ‘goo’ from running out.

After flowering feed with a balanced fertiliser, dead-head and allow the leaves to die back naturally.
 Lift and divide clumps in autumn if they’ve become overcrowded or performed poorly.

Keep your eyes peeled for narcissus bulb fly, narcissus nematode, bulb scale mite, slugs, narcissus basal rot, other fungal infections, narcissus yellow stripe virus, and other viruses and treat accordingly.

CAUTION Always wear gloves when handling daffodil bulbs as the sap in the flowers, leaves and stems may irritate skin. The bulbs are toxic if eaten causing nausea and vomiting, so always supervise young children when planting and keep playful pets at bay.

My top 6 varieties

Hawera This variety produces up to three canary yellow, fruity fragrant drooping flowers with swept-back petals and wide, short cups on each of its short stems. Blue and yellow make a particularly powerful pairing. Try rich-blue grape hyacinths teamed with this popular narcissus. Hawera can also be grown in gaps in patio paving

Jetfire Belonging to the Narcissus cyclamineus group, this tough, 12.5 tall variety, has a striking windswept look with swept-back golden petals and a fiery orange-red trumpet. It’s a good choice for rockeries and pots and suitable for naturalizing in lawns and woodland spots

Minnow During March and April, each 15cm tall stem carries up to five creamy white blooms, which have a buttercup yellow centre and potent sweet fragrance. Great planting partners are pansies, polyanthus, iris, scillas and heathers. It is also a perfect choice for rockeries and alpine displays and for flower arrangers as it makes great spring posies at Easter-time.

Tete a Tete At just 15-20cm tall, this multi-headed variety with golden trumpets, which are slightly fluted at the mouth, packs a punch from February through to April. This dwarf variety is perfect for growing in window boxes

Rip van Winkle This unusual multi-petalled, golden yellow variety produces large shaggy blooms up, on stems around 20cm tall. It is invariably one of the first to flower and the flowers can last for as long as 4 weeks. This “sparkler” style gem is the antithesis of its sleepy namesake. Ideal for the front of borders or containers, where an underplanting of chionodoxa creates the perfect pairing

Narcissus bulbocodium conspicuous This dainty lemon-yellow form of the species daffodil has a trumpet resembling the flared skirt of a hoop petticoat surrounded by a ruff of insignificant petals

 

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