South African winters are blessed with the cheerful golden cups of the daffodil flower – like a sunny smile to warm the chilly mornings. Despite their unassuming beauty, daffodils also called narcissus, and, if you’re familiar with Greek mythology, you’ll know the back-story here.
The story goes that Narcissus was a beautiful hunter, the son of the river god Cephissus and the nymph Liriope. He was so beautiful, he broke hearts as far as went, but he treated everyone with cold disdain.
One day while he was hunting in the forest, the Oread nymph, Echo, saw him in a clearing. She swooned, instantly smitten. As he had always done, when Echo approached him, he pushed her away and spoke unkind words to her. Her heart was shattered. She spent her remaining days wandering through the forest aimlessly until she eventually faded into just a faint echo.
Narcissus paid retribution when the goddess Nemesis visited him. She led him to a pool and showed him his own reflection. When he looked into the water, he believed he was seeing a beautiful nymph. He was smitten. Calling to the nymph made no difference. He eventually died at the riverside, unable to leave the beautiful face he saw in the water.
In the place of his body grew some beautiful flowers – daffodils, also called narcissus.
We love the golden colour, but certain corners of the garden may call for something a little more subtle. Or, maybe you have a particular colour scheme going? We totally get it.
These perennials will reward you with beautiful flowers year after year if they’re looked after. They love partial or dappled shade and well-draining soil (persistent moisture tends to rot bulbs). For the best effect, plant daffodils massed together in groups of at least 10-12 bulbs.
Consider your purpose for growing daffodils; do you wish to harvest them for a cut flower display, or purely to brighten the garden? For easy harvesting, rows or “double reach beds” (beds which allow you to reach over and harvest from either side) may be ideal. If you’re just growing for the garden, rounded beds or corner beds are particularly beautiful.
Bury them so that there is about 5cm of soil above the neck of the bulb. Give them a thorough soak every four days. Only fertilise them after they have flowered, to ensure they build up enough resources to flower well the following year.
The humble daffodil is one reason to love winter. Some of our other favourite wintertime blooms are Ranunculus, tulips, Hyacinths, and lilies (Hemerocallis). Happy planting in winter! Need help? Feel free to contact us.