Daffodils: the must-have spring plant

Daffodils: the must-have spring plant
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My mum has a photo of me as a toddler, enthusiastically pointing at some cheerful yellow daffodils. Apparently I used to have a habit of yanking the flowers off, vandalism that can’t have pleased my mum. I prefer to think of it as the earliest sign of a passion for gardening – and excellent taste in flowers of course!

Now I couldn’t be without daffodils in spring – and it’s a good job nobody pulls their flowers off! Snowdrops are great for reassuring you that winter will end, one day, but daffodils tell you that it’s definitely spring. Their golden flowers are as good as sunshine for cheering up the garden, plus they’re one of the most foolproof plants you can grow.

Every autumn I like to try and plant a few more bulbs, so my collection is slowly increasing. The daintier varieties seem to fit in better in my garden, especially in what I grandly call my ‘woodland border’ (actually just a small patch in the dappled shade below a lone birch tree!).

I love ‘February Gold’, one of the earliest to flower, and ‘Topolino’, which isn’t far behind. It has creamy-white petals surrounding a lemon yellow trumpet. They’re followed by pure white ‘Thalia’, a lovely variety, and then one of the latest to flower, Narcissus poeticus, in May. This variety has a tiny, flattened trumpet – yellow with a red halo – in the centre of swept-back white petals but I grow it for its scent, which is beautiful.

What I especially love about all of them is the way they go so well with other plants. Put them with blue grape hyacinths, the pink flowers of the spring-flowering perennial pea, Lathyrus vernus, in pots with bedding such as pansies or primroses, and they’ll look gorgeous every time.

Daffodils hardly need any looking after. When the flowers have faded, you are allowed to pull them off, because it stops the plant producing seed and makes it put all its energy back into the bulb instead, ensuring a good display next year. The leaves can look messy as they turn yellow and die back, but be patient and leave them until they’ve completely died back and can be gently pulled away because they’ll also replenish the bulb for next year’s flowers. Resist the temptation to knot them – it’s an outdated practice that hinders the replenishment process.

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