Sadly, the final daffodil has wilted, so it’s time to do the numbers. First of all, let me clarify that I’m not a purist, so I use the term “daffodil” to include all the daffodils, narcissus, and jonquils as a group. While I do keep good records, the information is not complete because I do not know the names of every daffodil that grows here. For instance, the first daffodil to bloom is a small bright yellow of medium size (about 10″ tall with a medium sized bloom) that I found growing at our old farm in Owen County. They were planted in a row with a gap in the center. I’d been told that there had been a log cabin there at the top of the hill, and I always imagined that the original pioneer woman had planted them on either side of her doorway, or possibly on either side of the gate along a fence that protected her front “yard.” When I moved away in 1992, I brought a clump along as a remembrance, and each spring as that daffodil blooms I send a prayer of thanks to that pioneer woman. (Why they would build a cabin at the top of the hill, where the strong winds blew, and the hike to bring water from the stream at the bottom of the hill would challenge the hardiest of folk is beyond my wonder!) This year that first cheerful daffodil opened on March 9. The very final daffodil finished yesterday, May 19 so that’s an impressive 71 days of heart-warming blossoms!
I’ve added a few daffodils each year since I retired, to the handful of un-named ones that were already in the ground when we purchased this house, being mindful of trying to stretch the season a bit. There are now over 40 varieties. However, my more recent goal has been to add daffodil varieties that have a longer bloom period and that hold up to our erratic spring weather. To that end, the records of when each variety begins to bloom and when it ends is important. Also, little notes recording destructive storms, hard freezes, or record heat are kept because weather can impact bloom. By comparing the numbers in various conditions over the years, a truer picture of which blooms hold up best is produced.
This evaluation is the result of five years of record-keeping and observation, except for the fact that a few of the varieties have only been grown for two years. I won’t bore you with the performance of every variety, but here are the ones that bloom best for me here in north central Indiana (Zone 5, but often acting more like 4b) Only those blooming for more than 20 days are included in this evaluation. (Sorry, that doesn’t mean each individual flower lasts more than 20 days, but that the variety bloomed for 20 days or more!) They are (in order of their appearance) :
Interestingly, “Cassata” bloomed 3/31 in the Cutting Garden, but 10 days later in the somewhat shaded Front Island, but both groups bloomed more than 20 days. “Mary Gay Lirette” is similar and behaved in the same way in its two locations. Both of these are the wonderful split-cups, which although they have large, showy blooms also have strong enough stems to keep them upright even through our winds, storms, and even snow and freezing rain. These two have become favorites, along with the very large “British Gamble” which also holds up very well to inclement weather.
“Avalon” was one of the first daffodils I added when we moved, for I loved its softer yellow trumpets with creamy white centers. It begins blooming in early April and usually lasts nearly the entire month. It also is one whose clump expands fairly quickly, so I’ve been able to divide the and add them to other areas.
“Delnashaugh” is a beautiful double with apricot petals tucked here and there in the cream-colored head. Until this year, it was always the longest-lasting of all the varieties I grow! It also multiplies fairly quickly and lasts a really long time as a cut flower. This year, it bloomed from April 8 until May 17.
The odd little “Rip Van Winkle” is small, but mighty with its spiky pom-pom flower, lasting 24 days. The flowers are only about 2″ across. It isn’t spreading much, but that could be because it is in the Front Island under black walnuts, and sadly, it has had a couple of encounters with the riding lawn mower cutting the corner too close! 😦
“Dolly” is a BIG double yellow that blooms long, but sadly the heads are so heavy they are often bent or fall to the ground, so most of them end up in a vase rather than remaining in the garden. “Sovereign” is another split-cup reputed to be 6″ across, although none of mine have been that large. They are supposed to be white with a dark yellow split trumpet, but some of mine have reverted to all yellow. Still pretty, and very durable, so I’m happy to have them.
“Pippit” is a small-flowered one, tall and graceful with multiple flowers per stalk. This one is lovely in the vase or garden, hardy in the worst storms and only lost the “longest bloom period” trophy by one day! “Bella Vista” is fairly new, purchased for its dark orange very frilly cup surrounded by white petals. The picture in the catalog sold me. In person, it’s much smaller than I’d hoped, but it holds up well and lasted 22 days.
“Geranium” is a multi-flowers per stem, old-time fragrant variety that is still a big winner in my book. It blooms later in the season (mid-April here) and often the stems get bent, but they are so lovely in the vase perfuming a room that I will always have them. 23 days this year. “Slice of Life” is another whose portrait in the catalog spurred its purchase, but the yellow flower with a split cup of dark orange are quite small, and if it weren’t so long-lasting (23 days) it wouldn’t be an asset. “Blushing Lady” just made the cut at 20 days, with soft yellow petals surrounding a soft apricot trumpet. As you might surmise from the name, it is a dainty, shorter plant that prefers dappled shade. Said to be fragrant, but I fail to detect any scent.
And the winner is (Fanfare!) “Sweet Ocean” a cream, yellow and orange double that sometimes has a hint of pink. Sweetly fragrant, strong-stemmed and sometimes has more than one flower per stem. This year, it bloomed from April 22-May 19 for a total of 27 days, even though we had some strong storms and 24 degrees F during that period. This is only its 2nd year, so as the clumps enlarge there is more opportunity to even extend that bloom period!
I hope that my observations make choosing from the vast selection of spring bulbs a little easier for you. I’ve enjoyed reading about others’ favorites and have already started a list for fall planting, even more daffodils! I think I must add “Sir Winston Churchill” and “Fortissimo” and possibly some others, especially if this virus continues to hang around. There’s few things during isolation more cheerful than a vase of colorful daffodils, especially if it’s snowing and there’s no basketball!
The rain has stopped, so I’m off to deal with little weeds that have begun to sprout. They think during the rains I didn’t notice, but there’s hours are numbered in single digits!