Daffodils are a beloved sign of spring, and the amount of available varieties is staggering. All daffodils are in the genus Narcissus, and all Narcissus could properly be called daffodils. Narcissus comes from the Greek word narkoum, meaning to make numb; daffodil bulbs contain a narcotic and poisonous alkaloid that produces rapid stupor and death when ingested. It's rumored that Roman soldiers carried daffodil bulbs into battle. If mortally wounded, a soldier would eat a bulb, ensuring a quick, painless death. Grim associations aside, this compound also keeps deer and other pests away from your beautiful spring blooms.
For cut arrangements, pick daffodils when they've just begun to open. Pick the flowers by hand rather than cutting them with a scissors or pruner. Run your forefinger down the stem to the point where it meets the ground, then place your thumb on the other side as if you were holding a pencil. Gently but firmly pull up and snap off the stem in the same motion.
Before arranging daffodils with other flowers, place them separately in tepid water for a couple of hours. Daffodils' sap is poisonous and will shorten the lives of other cut flowers if the daffodils aren't conditioned separately for a short period of time.
The center of a daffodil is called the trumpet or cup. The trumpet may be long or short, plain or ruffled, and even occasionally doubled. The trumpet is sometimes a different color than the surrounding petals; these varieties are called bicolored daffodils. Daffodils are officially classed into twelve divisions on the basis of anatomy. Here are characteristics of some of the most popular divisions:
The trumpet is longer than the petals on these flowers. Varieties include the all-yellow 'Arctic Gold'; 'Bravoure,' which has white petals and a yellow trumpet; the light-green 'Spellbinder'; and 'White Ideal,' which produces large all-white flowers. In general, these flowers do well in Canada, the Midwest, and northern states. One flower per stem.
These flowers have wide cups, and their petals are longer than or equal in length to the cup. Varieties include 'Accent,' which has white petals and a pink cup; 'Bully,' with yellow petals and an orange cup; 'Ceylon,' with bright yellow petals and an orange-red cup; 'Pink Charm,' with white petals and a striking orange-pink banded cup; and 'Virginia Sunrise,' with white petals and an orange cup. One flower per stem.
As their name suggests, these flowers have small cups in proportion to their petals. They tend to be good naturalizers, which means that their bulbs multiply and produce a greater number of blooms each year. Two varieties are 'Barrett Browning,' which has white petals and an orange-red trumpet, and 'Perimeter,' with yellow petals and a red-banded cup. One flower per stem.
These flowers have double the typical amount of petals, or a ruffled corona, or both, and they therefore look quite lush and full. Since they tend to be top-heavy, they need to be protected from wind in the garden. Varieties include 'Abba,' which is white with some orange, and the lemon-yellow 'Meeting.' One or more flowers per stem.
These flowers produce two to three nodding blooms per stem. They have a fruity fragrance. The yellow 'Lavalier' is one variety.
These have swept-back petals like a cyclamen. They do well in rock gardens. Varieties include 'Jet Fire' and 'Lark Whistle,' both with yellow petals and an orange cup.
True jonquils, these were the first daffodils brought to America by European settlers. Joniquils are small-flowered daffodils with narrow leaves and several fragrant flowers per stem. They like hot summers, which makes them ideal for growing in the Deep South. Varieties include 'Buffawn,' which has a yellowish-buff trumpet and slightly lighter petals; 'Intrigue,' with yellow petals and a white trumpet; yellow-bronze 'Quail'; and 'Sailboat,' with white petals and a yellow trumpet.
Species and Wild Forms
These are daffodils that occur naturally in the wild. One particularly lovely species is Narcissus odorus campernelli.
The corona is another name for the cup of the daffodil. The cups of these flowers are split for at least half of their length. Varieties include 'Cassara,' with white petals and a ruffled lemon-yellow cup; 'Mary Gay Lirette,' with white petals and a cup that opens yellow, then matures to pink; 'Mondragon,' with golden-yellow petals and a deep-orange cup; and 'Sorbet,' with white petals and an orange-white cup.