It’s daffodil season, and boxes of these beauties await on shelves of garden centers and on the pages of catalogs. The choice is huge, leaving gardeners to wonder: Which one? Or two? Or Three?
Over the years, I have settled on a few kinds of daffodils that excel in both appearance and repeat performance. They have also been in the marketplace long enough for the price to be reasonable, a distinction from newer ones that cost more. All of those factors contribute to my list of best choices in four distinct and important categories of daffodils.
Best classic yellow. Among the many yellow daffodils that bloom in March, Carlton remains my favorite and is widely considered one of the best choices for the South. The bloom is a two-tone, with bright yellow petals surrounding a deeper, golden yellow central ring. Carlton’s blooms have such good substance that it is tempting to touch their sturdy petals. They grow 12 to 24 inches tall and deserve a central spot in a spring flower bed.
Best white. Ice Follies gets its name from the white petals surrounding a frilly center ring that turns from light chartreuse to white. I like this daffodil even more for its reliability in repeating than its color, which is quite beautiful in March, sometimes late February. Paired with early blue hyacinths, the combination is lovely. Ice Follies also makes a good transition between yellow daffodils and the earliest tulips. The blooms are on the large size for daffodils, about 4 inches in diameter atop stems about 12 to 15 inches tall..
Best little daffodil. Miniature daffodils are an afterthought for many gardeners, but don’t overlook Tete-a-Tete. It grows about 6 inches tall and usually bears two blooms, both tiny versions of a yellow trumpet daffodil. This little daffodil looks charming at the front edge of flower beds, but is most effective when cut, placed in a tiny vase of water and displayed in the house where you can see close-up the exquisite details. Apart from its beauty, Tete-a-Tete is among the most reliable of repeating daffodils. It blooms early, while it is usually still cool enough for the blooms to last outdoors.
Best pink. No question here, Salome is tops here. The combination of colors here is outstanding. Creamy white petals surround a cup that is a beautiful salmon pink. This is another daffodil that possesses great substance. There is nothing flimsy about it. It tends to bloom in mid-spring and has proved a reliable repeater. The plants are tallish, about 12 to 16 inches.
All of these daffodils are reliable choices in the Piedmont, but they still require good growing conditions. This means well-drained soil and lots of sunshine to help the foliage mature and the bulb to create new buds of the next year’s flowers.
About six hours of direct sunshine a day from the time the foliages emerges in late winter until it matures and turns yellow in late spring is essential. Bulb fertilizer applied at planting time is also helpful.