2017: Year of the daffodil

Trumpet Daffodil. National Garden Bureau photo

By David Graper
SDSU Extension Horticulture Specialist and Director of McCrory Gardens

Reprinted from the National Garden Bureau http://ngb.org/

Daffodils, a spring-blooming, self-propagating perennial, originated in Europe, predominantly Spain, Portugal, France and Austria, where they are native to meadows and woody forests. Some naturalized in Great Britain and from there, narcissus bulbs were introduced to North America by pioneer women who made the long ocean voyage to America to build a new future. Given limited space for bringing personal goods, they sewed dormant daffodil bulbs into the hems of their skirts to plant at their new homes to remind them of the gardens they left behind. The remnant ancestors of those bulbs still persist today in older gardens in the eastern half of the US, making them a part of our heritage for over 300 years!

The official botanical genus name for Daffodils is Narcissus, which comes from the Greek word ‘Narkissos’ and its base word ‘Narke’, meaning sleep or numbness, attributed to the sedative effect from the alkaloids in its plants. The plant family is Amaryllidaceae, meaning all members are poisonous, which is great for gardeners because that makes them critter proof. Daffodil is actually just a nickname, not a scientific or Latin name.

Basic types and varieties

The Royal Horticultural Society divides Narcissus into the following divisions based on type, size, or number of flowers.

Division 1: Trumpet (One flower to a stem; the cup is as long as or longer than the petals.): N. ‘Bravoure’ Other popular trumpets: N. ‘British Gamble’; N. ‘Marieke’; N. ‘Mount Hood’

Division 2: Large Cup (One flower to a stem; the cup is more than one-third but less than equal to the length of the petals.): N. ‘Accent’; N. ‘Ceylon’; N. ‘Chromacolor’; N. ‘Fragrant Rose’; N. ‘Ice Follies’; N. ‘Misty Glen’; N. ‘Salome’; N. ‘St. Keverne’ Other popular Large Cups: N. ‘Fellows Favorite’; N. ‘Monal’; N. ‘Stainless’

Division 3: Small Cup (One flower to a stem; the cup is not more than one-third the length of the petals.): N. ‘Barrett Browning’; N. ‘Dreamlight’; N. ‘Merlin’; N. ‘Segovia’ (miniature) Other popular Small Cups: N. ‘Goose Green’; N. ‘Green-Eyed Lady’

Division 4: Double (One or more flowers to a stem, with doubling of the petals or the cup or both.): N. ‘Tahiti’ Other popular Doubles: N. ‘Bridal Crown’; N. ‘Double Smiles’

Division 5: Triandrus (Usually two or more nodding flowers to a stem; petals are reflexed.): N. ‘Thalia’; N. ‘Hawera’ (miniature) Other popular Triandrus: N. ‘Ginter’s Gem’; N. ‘Katie Heath’; N. ‘Starlight Sensation’; N. ‘Sunlight Sensation’

Division 6: Cyclamens (One flower to a stem; petals are significantly reflexed; flower at an acute angle to the stem, with a very short neck.): N. ‘Rapture’ (and Pannill) Other popular Cyclamineus: N. ‘February Gold’; N. ‘Jetfire’; N. ‘Tweety Bird’

Division 7: Jonquilla (One to five flowers to a stem; petals spreading or reflexed; flowers usually fragrant; foliage is often reed-like or at least very narrow and dark green.): N. ‘Golden Echo’; N. ‘Hillstar’; N. ‘Intrigue’; N. ‘Kokopelli’; N. ‘Quail’; N. ‘Stratosphere’; N. ‘Sun Disc’ (miniature); N. ‘Sweetness’ Other popular Jonquilla: N. ‘Beautiful Eyes’; N. ‘Derringer’; N. ‘Pappy George’

Division 8: Tazetta (Usually three to twenty flowers to a stout stem; leaves broad; petals spreading, not reflexed; flowers fragrant.): N. ‘Falconet’; N. ‘Geranium’ Other popular Tazettas: N. ‘Avalanche’ (Thomas Jefferson had this one in his garden); N. ‘Martinette’

Division 9: Poeticus (Usually one flower to a stem; petals pure white; cup is usually disc-shaped, with a green or yellow center and red rim; flowers fragrant.): N. ‘Actaea’

Division 11: Split Corona (Cup split – usually for more than half its length.): N. ‘Tripartite’ Other popular Split Corona: N. ‘Curly Lace’; N. ‘Exotic Mystery’; N. ‘Mary Gay Lirette’

Division 12: Other (Daffodil cultivars which do not fit the definition of any other division.): N. ‘Tete-a-Tete’ (miniature) Other popular Other-types: N. ‘Toto’; N. ‘Bittern’

Division 13: Botanical (All species and wild or reputedly wild variants and hybrids.): N. obvallaris; N. poeticus var. recurvus Other popular Botanical-types: N. x odorus Linnaeus; N. x odorus flore pleno

There are two awards given by the American Daffodil Society to varieties for specific qualities or uses: The Wister Award for garden excellence and the Pannill Award for exhibition excellence. In the list above, varieties in bold are Wister award winners.

Garden how-to’s

Unlike many spring flowering bulbs, daffodils are not eaten by mice, voles, squirrels, rabbits or deer because they are poisonous and distasteful, which helps to keep pets and children from ingesting them. Daffodils are great for picking and arranging in cut flower bouquets and they are also perfect for container planting and forcing.

The ideal daffodil planting time depends on where you live. In zones 3-5, you should plant in September-November. If you live further south, in zones 6-9, then you should wait until October-December.

Bulb sizes are determined by the age of the bulb and also the division of the cultivar. Division 1-4 tend to be larger (14-16 cm or 16- 18 cm in circumference) than Division 5-7 (12- 14 cm or 14-16 cm). Of course, miniatures are normally smaller sized bulbs (8-10 cm or 10- 12 cm).

Planting instructions

Keeping bulb size in mind, daffodil bulbs should be spaced 3x the width of the bulb apart, or 4- 6” on center, depending on the size of the bulb. As for planting depth, daffodils should be planted 3x the height of the bulb deep, or 4-6” to the bottom of the hole, depending on the size of the bulb. Planting in full sun is preferable, but partial shade (at least 1/2 day sun) is acceptable.

Digging and dividing is normally not necessary if the bulbs are planted in fertile soil, have sufficient water during the spring growing season, and if they get plenty of sunlight for 6 weeks after the blooms are finished. However, if you do want to divide them, do so as soon as the foliage begins to turn yellow. Dig under the whole clump with a spading fork, shake off the loose soil and carefully separate the roots of the large bulbs from one another. If daughter bulbs are attached to the mother bulbs, it’s best to leave them together – they will separate underground when the time is right. The best choice is to replant bulbs immediately after digging, however if storing is necessary, store dry in mesh bags with plenty of air circulation. Removing spent flowers is nice for aesthetic reasons, but because most hybrid daffodils have very little nectar and have heavy, distasteful pollen which is seldom spread by the wind or insects, few are accidently pollenated. Therefore, few produce real seeds which would drain the bulb’s energy needed to produce next year’s bloom…so it’s not really necessary to deadhead daffodils.

Mark your calendars

• The Third Thursday program at McCrory Gardens this month is entitled: Phenomena and Temporality in the Landscape and will be presented Feb. 16 at 6:30 p.m. in the McCrory Gardens Education & Visitor Center, located at 631 22nd Ave. N. The presentation will be given by Kevin Benham, SDSU professor of landscape architecture, masters of landscape architecture from the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University, masters of architecture at the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, The University of Michigan.

Benham will present his research and work focusing on landscape phenomena and the temporal qualities inherent in the discipline. His conceptual work has been exhibited throughout the world, including exhibits at the Royal Institute of British Architects, London, England; CUBE Gallery, Manchester England; Zurich, Switzerland; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Scottsdale, Arizona. Join us while he shares his passion and expertise in producing temporal and ephemeral installations that elucidate phenomena requiring careful observation through space and time.

Registration for this free educational program is encouraged by going to http://www.mccrorygardens.com/ and clicking on the LEARN tab.

• McCrory Gardens presents “Wine and Madness.” Have cold temperatures or life in general been stressing you out? Hammer out your frustrations with us at McCrory Garden’s Wine and Madness event! This workshop will show you how the dye from plants can be transferred to fabric, making a beautiful art piece. Wine, beer and soda will be available, and your first glass and a light snack is included! Is your holiday poinsettia losing its beauty? Bring it along and make it into a lasting art piece! Supplies will be included, but you may want to ring your own hammer, dish towel, or flowers if preferred. The workshop will be Feb. 17 from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. at the McCrory Gardens Education and Visitor Center, located at 6:31 22nd Ave. N. Please register by February 14 (Valentine’s Day) by calling 688-6707 or by visiting our website at http://www.mccrorygardens.com/. The workshop fee is $20/person and limited to 20 registrants.

• Prairie Maple Syrup Production Workshops – Mission Extension Office, 150 E. 2nd St. (phone 605-856-2198) on Feb. 26 at 1:00 p.m. and at McCrory Gardens, 631 22nd Ave. (phone 605-688-6707) on March 4 at 2:00 p.m. The workshops will be presented by Dr. David Graper, SDSU Extension horticulture specialist. “The workshops are intended for people with a few sugar or silver maple trees and/or boxelder trees who are interested in hobby or backyard maple syrup production, as well as those considering small commercial production,” said Graper. The workshop will consist of an indoor presentation, discussing the sugaring process, equipment needs etc. and then the group will go out and tap some trees and put the equipment to use. With luck there will even be some sap flowing the day of the workshop. In addition, participants will also assist with a research project dealing with awareness of prairie maple syrup production and a taste panel.

There is no cost to attend the workshops, thanks to funding through the South Dakota Dept. of Agriculture’s Specialty Crops Block Grant Program.

McCrory Gardens has a wood-fired evaporator onsite which will be in operation periodically to boil the sap down to syrup this spring. Once the sap starts flowing – generally in mid-March, McCrory Gardens will post an announcement on the McCrory Gardens website, www.mccrorygardens.com and Facebook pages.

“We are excited to be continuing the syrup project at the gardens this spring and we hope to see people come out to learn more about the process,” Graper said.

• Pennington County Master Gardeners present their annual Spring Fever event, March 4, in the Rushmore Room at the Ramkota Hotel, 2011 N. LaCrosse Street Rapid City, S.D. Registration: Check-in begins at 8:00 a.m. Visit the Silent Auction, Door Prizes, Used Books, Information and Free Tables before the first presentation and during coffee and lunch breaks. Presentations begin at 8:30 a.m. Featured speakers include: Mary Ann Newcomer — Homestead Pioneer Plants for the 21st Century Garden, Creating a Garden Tapestry—(Putting color combinations to work in your garden) and Rhoda Burrows — Soil Biology and the Biology of Plant Roots. Table talks on a variety of topics will also be presented. Registration cost is $35/person and is due by March 1. Visit www.blackhillsgarden.com Welcome tab for more information, registration forms and updates. For other questions, contact Joe Hillberry at jhillberry@gmail.com or by phone at 605-348-1322.