This section is from the book "Beautiful Gardens - How To Make Them And Maintain Them", by Walter P. Wright. Also available from Amazon: Beautiful Gardens: How To Make And Maintain Them.
In the brief references to Daffodils in the chapters on Bulbous Flowers and Wild Gardens it was indicated that their uses were varied and their adaptability great, but space did not permit of a consideration of the sections and varieties. A spring flower so important as the Daffodil demands such attention, which is accordingly given herewith.
First, however, let it be emphasised that but a very small portion of the beauty which Daffodils are capable of producing is seen when they are only represented by a clump or two in a spring flower bed. They ought to be freely planted in borders, bedded out in quantity, and also naturalised. This would be impossible in the case of the higher priced varieties except or wealthy people, but when bulbs of such really valuable things as poeticus and Barrii conspicuus can be bought for a few shillings a thousand there is no financial difficulty in the way.
The Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire bulb growers have had a great deal to do with the cheapness of Daffodils. They cultivate them in hundreds of acres, and sell them at prices which were undreamt of a few years ago. This has not brought down the price of novelties. On the contrary, a period which sees the popular sorts selling nearly as cheaply as Crocuses finds the newer and scarcer sorts valued at many pounds per bulb. Thus the Daffodil is the specialist's at the same time that it is the people's flower.
The fallacy that all bulbous flowers require a light, sandy soil if they are to give of their best has been thoroughly exploded. That it suits many is undoubted; that it is essential to success is quite another matter. In the case of Daffodils it is doubtful whether sand may not be classed as positively detrimental; certainly where it consists of a dry bank, unmoistened by subsoil water, comparatively poor results are produced. On the contrary, clay gives immense vigour. The author has particularly observed that in the damp clay sides of the ditches around his garden clumps of Van Sion display a strength which they never attain to in drier spots, and the flowers are of huge size.
Growers of Daffodils on sand will be well advised to add liberal quantities of cow droppings, which, as a cool manure, will be particularly suitable. On stronger soils steamed bone flour, at the rate of two ounces per square yard, will be good. It is a fallacy to suppose that Daffodils require large quantities of rich yard manure in a moist, holding soil. They need very little. The moisture is what they need. Given that, they will produce fleshy, fibrous roots, nearly as strong as those of Asparagus.
In view of the ease with which Daffodils can be transplanted, even when they are set with flower buds, there need be no hesitation about early planting. It is better to plant the bulbs early in a nursery bed, and shift them as the positions they are desired to occupy become vacant, than to keep them out of the ground until November or December merely because a few worn-out Dahlias stand in the way. Early planting prevents any risk of the bulbs making premature growth in bags or drawers. Those who are dealing with home grown bulbs which they lifted and ripened in June may plant them as early as August. Let it be noted, however, that lifting and drying off, although it may be a cultural convenience, is by no means a necessity when the bulbs are "at home" in a soil to their liking; and it takes time, and occupies space, which can ill be spared in some cases. Where the bulbs are grown in whole bedfuls it has to be done, because the ground is wanted for summer plants, but in borders it is quite possible to tie the foliage into a neat knot and plant fresh things close to the Daffodils. If they are overgrown they will not resent it in the least, but will prove their vigour by coming up as strongly as ever another year.
Growers for exhibition may cry out against such rough and ready procedure, but if it encourages the liberal planting of Daffodils in mixed borders it well serves its purpose. With what complaisance Daffodils will bear shifting the author has proved by taking up clumps in autumn when a border was being re-made, leaving them just as they were dug up throughout the winter, and finally planting them out only when the colour was showing in the expanding flowers the following spring. The soil being of an adhesive nature, and moist, the clumps were as homogeneous as a potful of bulbs. Frost and snow had absolutely no effect on them.
Daffodils are admirably adapted for naturalising in grass, and when once established will come through turf as easily as a Nymphaea will come through water. They can be allowed to ripen their foliage up to June, and then scythed down with the grass safely. This is the simplest of all forms of growing them. Bulbs that have been forced, and are procurable at very low prices, are quite suitable for this purpose.
Daffodils make pretty beds, but the mixtures with Hyacinths and Tulips which are sometimes attempted in the public parks are not generally harmonious. As a rule, the Daffodils are best kept to themselves.
Fig. Narcissus Gloria Mundi.
Fig. Narcissus Madame De Graaff.
In these remarks the term "Daffodil" has been used in a wide sense to cover all Narcissi, but scientific sticklers would not tolerate any such looseness. To them only a trumpet Narcissus is a Daffodil. A poeticus is not, nor is such a popular sort as Sir Watkin. It will be time enough to pay strict attention to the specialists when they have agreed among themselves as to a system of classification for Narcissi. This they have by no means been able to do up to the present. Mr. Baker's classification by comparative length of crown or trumpet and perianth segments holds good from want of a better, and in spite of the fact that varieties in the different sections have been intercrossed. It is as follows: -
(1) Magni-Coronati. - Corona (crown) funnel shaped or cylindrical, as long as, or longer than, the perianth segments.
(2) Medio-Coronati. - Corona cup shaped, about half as long as the perianth segments.
(3) Parvi-Coronati, corona small, obconic, or cup shaped.