Narcissus, our national flower, has a lot more to offer than we realised

Spring is upon us nice and early signified by those few days of warm sunshine that broke up the dreary rainy days of late winter that we’ve become oh so used to. Despite the cold nights and wet ground, we’ve been having some great gardening weather, and one of the greatest things about gardening in springtime has to be the presence of the early flowering plants that serve as a welcome reminder of why we do what we do.

Yellow daffodils flowering in the lawn at Aberglasney Gardens with the Mansion in the background
Narcissus ‘Rignfelds early Sensation’ in the North Lawn by the mansion

At Aberglasney, the snowdrops, Hellebores and Crocus have been wonderful this year. Looking around the garden today, it’s encouraging to see that buds can be seen on the Tulips and that Narcissi have already started – their symphony of yellow is present in drifts across the Gardens. In fact, the first winter-flowering bulb we saw was the coveted Narcissus ‘Cedric Morris’ which arrives before the snowdrops around November-time.

Yellow frilly daffodil flowering at Aberglasney
Narcissus ‘Cedric Morris’

Each autumn, we plant hundreds upon hundreds of Narcissus bulbs and have quietly accumulated over 450 different varieties over the years. One of the most interesting parts of growing such a range of varieties of the same plant is that you’re able to see and appreciate all its different shapes and sizes, as well as benefiting from a greater length of flowering period. Amazingly, we’ve had Narcissus in flower constantly in the Gardens from November to present – this is partly due to the mild winter but is more related to the planting of different varieties. Many of them are only just coming into flower so it’s comforting to know the best is still yet to come!

Yellow daffodils almost ready to bloom in Aberglasney Gardens
Narcissus ‘Rijnfelds Early Sensation’

With literally hundreds to choose from in every shade from white through to yellow – greens, pinks and oranges are less common but still available – the only drawback is deciding which ones to choose. This year, there’ve been some great early varieties that brightened up the gardens in the bleakest winter months and are still going strong.

Narcissus ‘Rapture’

A new variety we added this year that began flowering in late February. It has dainty, nodding, yellow flowers that really stand out in poor light and is able to stand up well to wind and heavy rain. Like many early flowering types, it’s quite short and only grows to about thirty or forty centimetres and has the added benefit of dying back a little earlier in the season.

Yellow daffodil and purple hellebore flowering at Aberglasney
Narcissus ‘Rapture’ and Purple hellebore

Narcissus ‘tete-a-tete’

An old favourite and a very common variety that’s flowering strongly in the Gardens at the moment. Although many of us know this variety, there are many imposters to be wary of. The true form has multiple flowers on each stem, is only about fifteen centimetres tall, makes an excellent basket plant, and does very well in borders. At Aberglasney, we have a large border of tete-a-tete planted with late-flowering perennials to disguise their old leaves.

A drift of yellow daffodils flowering at Aberglasney Gardens
Narcissus ‘Tete-a- tete’ and Corylopsis sinensis

Narcissus ‘Rijnfelds Early Sensation’

Another short variety that’s particularly good for cutting as it has strong stems. This year, it was one of the earliest to come into flower meaning it has the advantage of dying back a little earlier which will reduce the number of dead leaves on show. Narcissus leaves should be left to die back naturally as cutting back whilst they’re still green will weaken the bulb for the following year.

Yellow frilly daffodil flowering at Aberglasney Gardens
Narcissus ‘Rignfelds Early Sensation’

Narcissus ‘Lemon Silk’

Another favourite of mine that needs mentioning. It’s looking absolutely beautiful in flower at the moment.

Yellow and white daffodil flowering at Aberglasney Gardens
Narcissus ‘Lemon Silk’

Planting and Care

Having planted so many bulbs this year, one very noticeable fact is that the newly planted varieties flower much later than established clumps. Those on south-facing slopes also come into flower much earlier than expected. If you have a passion for Narcissus, it’s important to remember they’ll grow very well in rough grass and make excellent plants for grass verges or hedgerows. They’ll quite happily be strimmed or mown down once the leaves have died back and they require very little care in general other than some deadheading. If you do have some time and like propagating and collecting seeds, growing them yourself can be good fun as you’ll have your own personal variety.

Late summer and early autumn is the best time to buy Narcissus which are freely available. If you’re looking for more unusual types, I’d recommend scouring through specialist bulb catalogues as they can be very helpful.

Yellow daffodil and purple hellebore in bloom at Aberglasney Gardens
Narcissus ‘Rapture’ and Helleborus

Tips for the Week:

  1. Keep protecting tender perennials – there’s still a chance of frost
  2. Early vegetables can be hardened off during the day
  3. Warm the soil before planting
  4. Keep weeding as they’ll be thriving in the sunshine and showers
  5. Prepare pea and bean stakes ready for use
  6. Pot up Dahlia and other tender perennials
  7. Sow tomato seeds – a little heat can really help