Most of us will unknowingly keep an eye out for signs that spring is coming. Snowdrops followed by crocus in the late winter months are a welcome sight but, as the days begin to lengthen, it is the appearance of daffodils that marks the arrival of spring for many of us. After the dull winter months, it is not surprising that they are such a welcome sight.
Whilst the common name is daffodil, the formal Latin name is Narcissus. When people think of daffodils, most will have a mental image of an all-yellow flower on a long green stem. We know from past Caley Spring Shows, that many people are unaware of the huge range of cultivars with different shapes, sizes and colours.
Daffodils are easy to grow in Scotland as all, except a very few, are very cold tolerant and will grow in any reasonable soil. It is not surprising then that there are quite a few keen daffodil enthusiasts in Scotland, including some Caley members.
The key distinguishing factors for each daffodil are the trumpet (corona), the perianth (petals) and their colours. With over 2500 different cultivars, they have been classified into groups called divisions, plus colour codes. This might appear to be confusing but is in fact, fairly straight-forward – for the main groups at least.
There are 13 divisions of daffodils but, unless you are as keen as George Anderson and Pam Whittle (both former Caley Presidents), just focus on a few and you will begin to understand and make some stunning choices for your garden that not only give you variety but will also give you a long flowering season to enjoy.
Division 1: These flowers have a corona that is longer or as long as, its perianth. This is the shape that many consider to be the traditional all-yellow daffodil but even here there are white ones and other variations.
Division 2: These are called large-cupped daffodils, where the corona is more than a third, but less than equal, to the size of the perianth.
Division 3: These are small-cupped flowers where the corona is not more than one-third the length of the perianth. These flowers have some of the brightest contrasting colour combinations.
Division 4: Double daffodils, these are usually easy to recognise as they have a sort of muddled appearance.
Division 6: Another easy one to recognise because of the swept back petals. They are called cyclamineus daffodils.
Colour coding of daffodils is not as scary as it sounds. For example: y=yellow, w=white, o=orange r=red. These are the main colours, but you may find g=green or p=pink although these are less common.
The confusion, or perhaps panic, comes when you put the classification codes all together. Starting with an easy one, Narcissus ‘Chobe River’. This is a division 1 daffodil with yellow perianth, and yellow corona so is 1Y-Y. Narcissus ‘Ebony’ is a division 1 with a white perianth and a yellow corona so is 1W-Y (note: the colour of the perianth comes first.)
Some combinations of colours do get a bit confusing, but it does help you to identify your own bulbs when the label you carefully put in the garden goes missing. For example, Narcissus ‘Badbury Rings’. This is a division 3 daffodil classed as 3Y-YYR. This means the perianth is yellow, but the corona has two different shades of yellow before finishing off with red. The more you use the classification the easier it gets.
The last factor worth taking note of is its flowering time. Daffodils can be early (E), middle (M) or late (L). But things are never that clear cut, so you can get VE (very early), EM (early to mid) and so on. It is worth checking out when you might expect something to flower so you can have flowers from February to May.
You do not need to have a garden to grow stunning daffodils. In fact, those that show daffodils grow many of them in pots. Why not check out last year’s virtual spring show on The Caley website to see more examples although, sadly, not as many varieties or categories as normal. This year, The Caley Spring Bulb show is scheduled for 2nd and 3rd of April 2022, at Saughton Park in Edinburgh.
Most importantly, just enjoy these lovely flowers and embrace the range and variety available.