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Miniature Daffodils

from Calgary
by Lesley Reynolds
by Lesley Reynolds


Lesley Reynolds is a freelance garden writer who was born in England and emigrated to Regina as a child. Lesley has always loved plants and the natural environment and has gardened in Saskatchewan and Alberta for over 20 years, spending most of that time in Calgary. For the past seven years, Lesley has been working with her friend and writing partner Liesbeth Leatherbarrow and they have several best-selling gardening books to their credit.

In August 2001, Lesley moved with her family to Salt Spring Island, British Columbia. She is enjoying learning how to garden on the west coast and is busy planning a brand new garden.

December 26, 2004

1pt.gif (86 bytes)In January, with the bustle and clutter of the holidays behind us, and the welcome distraction of catalogues arriving daily, prairie gardeners turn their thoughts to spring. To me, spring means bulbs, and I eagerly anticipate the emergence of the first Iris reticulata, Siberian squill, and species tulips. But perhaps more than any of the others, I love the cheery yellow perfection of the tiny daffodils that have proven so successful in my Calgary garden over the past few years.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)We are all familiar with the large, showy trumpet varieties of narcissus, commonly referred to as daffodils or jonquils, but prairie gardeners should also consider planting miniature daffodils, among the best adapted to our climate. The blossoms of these little beauties often last for several weeks and, like their larger relatives, there are cultivars that bloom from early to late spring. Many miniatures will gradually spread to form ever-larger patches of spring colour and bloom for years without division. In addition, they are easier to protect from hard frost, withstand windy conditions better than taller cultivars, and their maturing leaves are inconspicuous once blooming has ceased.

1pt.gif (86 bytes)As their name suggests, miniature daffodils are just a petite version of their larger counterparts, growing to a maximum height of 25 cm (10 in.). They have the same flat, strappy foliage and leafless flower stems that emerge in early spring. The leaves remain green until mid-summer when they turn yellow and die back to the ground. Flowers can be singles or doubles, and consist of a cup or trumpet (corona) and an outer ring of petals (perianth).
1pt.gif (86 bytes)Several miniatures are commonly available in garden centres and bulb catalogues. 'Tête à Tête’, which blooms in early spring, produces a multitude of fragrant blooms with golden yellow perianths and tiny, soft orange cups. 'Jumblie', another early spring bloomer, has golden yellow reflexed perianths and yellow orange cups. ‘Minnow’ is a fragrant Tazetta cultivar that bears clusters of four or more creamy yellow flowers with deep yellow cups in mid-spring. In late spring ‘Hawera’ produces up to six, lemon-yellow star-like blooms on each of several flower stems. For an unusual and eye-catching display, plant a cluster of 'Rip van Winkle', a cheeky, bright yellow, double miniature that blooms in mid-spring.

1pt.gif (86 bytes)Miniature daffodils grow from bulbs that are available in garden centres or catalogues in late summer. On the prairies, they should be planted before September 15 to give their roots ample time to establish before winter sets in.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)Daffodils grow well in full sun to light shade and prefer fertile, well drained soil. Add compost or well-rotted manure to improve soil fertility and tilth. The bulbs should be planted about 8 to 10 cm (3 to 4 in.) deep and with a similar spacing; the floral display is most effective when the bulbs are mass-planted in informal groups of twelve or more. Add a sprinkling of bulb fertilizer to the planting hole and cover this with a thin layer of soil before placing the bulbs in the hole. Fill the hole with amended soil and add a 5 cm (2 in.) layer of organic mulch. Keep the soil moist throughout the fall and spring, and continue watering until the leaves die back completely. Also make sure that you mark the spot where your bulbs are planted (so you don’t dig them up by mistake).
1pt.gif (86 bytes)Miniature daffodils can withstand several degrees of frost without damage to the leaves or flowers, but when temperatures dip below -5°C cover the plants with organic mulch (shredded leaves work well) or snow, if available.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)Make sure that you interplant miniature daffodils with annuals, fast-growing perennials, or herbs to disguise their withering foliage after they have finished blooming. Their diminutive stature makes it easier to be successful at this task than for the larger narcissus.

1pt.gif (86 bytes)Miniature daffodils are perfect in gardens where space is limited, or in a spot where they can be enjoyed at close range – at the front of a perennial border, or next to a path, deck, or patio. They are also an excellent choice for planting in rock gardens or naturalizing in the lawn. Combine them with other small bulbs, such as Siberian squill (Scilla sibirica), striped squill (Puschkinia scilloides), grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum), and glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa luciliae). Suitable rock garden companions include rock cress (Arabis spp.), false rock cress (Aubrieta deltoidea), draba, and moss phlox (Phlox subulata).

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