There are critter-proof flowers out there, flowers that even deer won’t eat. Unlike tulips, which seem to be on the savory menu of many wildlings, daffodils are off limits. Daffodil bulbs, in the family Narcissus, are even left alone underground. Plant daffodils now and even into December for a pest-proof floral display next spring and early summer.
All parts of the daffodil, including the bulb, are toxic. Squirrels, deer, mice, woodchucks, and voles seem to know and respect this trait and leave them alone above and below ground.
Choose daffodils that will give you a long season of bloom from the earliest cold days of spring to the warm days of early summer. There are now colors to fit every pallet, from the sunny and bold old-fashioned deep golden yellows to the palest pinks. The miniatures are perfect for pots on windowsills or in containers on patios. Most of them add strong fragrance to their diminutive looks.
Moreover, there are whites and creams for your moon gardens. The daffodil trumpets can be frilled, double, flat and ruffled, or almost nonexistent. Some will even grow a bouquet on a stem from just one bulb.
Three of the earliest to bloom are ‘Barrett Browning’ with white flat petals and a small orange red trumpet; ‘Erlicheer’ is a fragrant double white with golden middles, which presents you with a bouquet on a stem; ‘Fortissimo’ is the raging star, with a large ruffled orange cup on golden petals.
For more early blooms, plant ‘King Alfred.’ He is still the golden daffodil of choice, especially for southern gardens. For a little later bloom, try the giant cupped ‘Dutchmaster’ daffodil. At the other end of the size range, one of my very favorites for longevity and fragrance is the diminutive miniature daffodil ‘Quail.’ ‘Quail’ even does the impossible (for a daffodil.) It dries into a papery pale yellow color, useful in an arrangement with dried purple or blue flowers like lavender, catmint, and Russian sage.
‘Mount Hood’ is a white that blossoms in mid-spring. Many new cultivars put on a show mid-season. ‘Pistachio’ is a delicate pale yellow-green. ‘Lorikeet’ is a combination salmon pink and pale yellow. ‘Popeye’ has creamy white petals with a yellow and white ruffled trumpet. ‘Spellbinder’ is a mid-spring heirloom. It has pale yellowish green petals and a trumpet that starts out yellow and turns white as it matures.
Don’t forget to make room for the miniatures in your plan. They usually are extremely fragrant for their size, have multiple blooms on a stem, and are perfect for pathway edges or pots of flowers. The early flowering ‘Jetfire’ miniature looks like it is standing in the wind with its curved-back golden petals and orange trumpets. It is a very early daff and extremely fragrant. In addition, it is long lived and naturalizes freely, filling in garden spaces exhuberantly. ‘February Gold’ is a small time-honored mini that reliably blooms for years, sporting one to two flowers per stem.
There is even a miniature double, ‘Rip Van Winkle,’ that looks like a yellow dust mop. There are few choices for early summer, but one of the best is the white daffodil with a double flowered pink cup, aptly named ‘Cheerfulness.’
Choose daffodils wisely and you will have bright color in your garden for months with very little work and almost no care. They are also perennial, so they will come back each spring, bringing you that sense of renewal as you search out the first green shoots pushing through the earth. Most critters know to stay away.
Images and text by Anne K. Moore