The link between March and Daffodils is of course St David’s Day. St David’s Day – or Dydd Dewi Sant in the Welsh language Cymraeg – is March 1st and Daffodils, along with leeks, are a recognisable Welsh emblem.
Although it is possible to have flowering bulbs throughout most of the year, most people tend to think of bulbs as being springtime flowers. Whether you were organised enough to plant these up in the autumn, or whether you’re planning a trip to the nursery or garden centre, there’s a lot of choice when it comes to spring bulb display.
In our last blog we looked at some of the botany about bulbs and admired some snowdrops and tulips. As it is now the beginning of March it seems appropriate to look at some planting ideas for Narcissus, which are also known as Daffodils.
Some planting ideas for Narcissi
The following extract is my contribution to an article on Narcissi collated and written by Vanessa Berridge for the March issue of Homes and Gardens magazine and including suggestions from Matthew Biggs and Christine Skelmersdale, whose Broadleigh Bulbs’ display I enjoyed at the recent RHS Plant and Design Show.
“Marie Shallcross of Plews Garden Design recommends pots of scented narcissi by the garden door or on a balcony, containing the fragrant pheasant-eye daffodil, Narcissus poeticus planted with Narcissus jetfire or Narcissus pinza”
Both Narcissus jetfire and Narcissus pinza add a splash of colour to brighten dull days. Narcissus poeticus ‘actea’ has a totally wonderful scent but is one of the more toxic daffodils so do be sure not to eat it by mistake!
I like to mix the jonquilla and cyclamineus Narcissi for the contrast in form they offer. Narcissus jonquilla are like a smaller version of the familiar trumpet daffodils, whilst the cyclamineus, as you can see from the photo, sweep their petals back like an Olympic swimmer at the starting block. They offer an overall delicate feel that works well in small areas. This could be in a raised bed next to a formal terrace with lawn beyond (the green is a good back drop); or alongside a flight of steps.
Many town front gardens are not only small in themselves, but planting has to fight for space with car parking and recycle boxes. We have made green roofs or raised beds as covers for the recycling and bins and filled them with saxifrage and dwarf narcissi; Narcissus ’ canaliculatus’ is attractive because of its multi flowered stems; and it’s scented too so with the flowers nearer nose height it maximises the enjoyment.
Daffodils, Leeks and St David’s Day
It would seem that the Daffodil was encouraged as an alternative Welsh emblem to the leek so that the Welsh were discouraged from remembering their past victories over the English in battle. St David, or so we are told, suggested that the Welsh army wear a leek on their shoulder into battle not so much for a packed lunch but so that they could recognise friend from foe in the heat of the mêlée. The wearing of a badge or token into battle so that you knew who your mates were, was common, so the story has a factual basis. Not that daffodils have made the Welsh forget their victories – they’ve just written stories about the English attempt to make them forget…and laughed at the naivety of the Sais (English); such is the way of all “conquered races”.
Leeks grow well in the Welsh climate; they’ll stand in the ground all winter until they’re needed for dinner. A member of the onion family, leeks are distinguished by their long white stalk. The white section has a milder flavour than the green; this is encouraged during the leek’s growth by covering the stem, with soil or with a tube to protect it from the sunlight. This blanches the stem, reducing the amount of chlorophyll (this is basically what makes the green part of the plant green) and making the stem easier for humans to eat.
However, do not get your daffodil bulbs muddled up with your onions. Narcissus are toxic, bulb, flower and leaf but especially the bulb will give you severe stomach cramps and possibly convulsions. Not generally fatal, narcissus bulbs did however cause the death of Dutch cattle during World War 2, when the livestock were fed them on account of there not being any other food available.