Dutch narcissi hybridizers are hard at work improving the species and cultivating new varieties. While these efforts are being mainly directed toward the taller narcissi, attention is being paid to the smaller species as well. A good example is the relatively new N. 'Bell Song', which has white petals and a pink cup. There's even a white-petalled, lilac-cupped variety in the works.
But don't go running to your local garden centre just yet. It takes from 15 to 20 years to bring a new cultivar to market.
• Unlike tulips, daffodils do not require deadheading.
• Do not cut off, fold, bunch or braid fading foliage, as it will affect photosynthesis, essential for replenishing bulbs for next year's blooms.
• Squirrel problems? Try interplanting Narcissi spp. among your other bulbs.
Narcissi spp. are one of the easiest bulb flowers to force. Just pot them up and give them a cold treatment that mimics the outdoors. A cold period of between 12 to 16 weeks, at a temperature between 7° and 9°C, will do the trick. Here's how:
• Plant bulbs close to each other (almost touching) in a pot. Make sure that the tips of the bulbs barely protrude from the soil. Water after planting and keep soil moist, but not sopping wet, throughout the cooling stage.
• Store pots of planted bulbs in a cool, dark place, such as an unheated garage, crawl space or cellar. A spare fridge (but not freezer) also works. Cover the pots with newspaper so that when you open the door to check on them, the fridge light won't interfere with the process. Do not store fruit (especially oranges) in the fridge at the same time, as ripening fruit naturally emits ethylene gas, which can harm the bulbs.
• Don't rush things. You'll know your daffodils are ready to bring into the light when shoots begin to emerge. Then, over the first week, gently acclimatize your daffodils to increasingly stronger light levels. Two to three weeks later, you'll be rewarded with fabulous blooms.