Selecting and Planting Daffodils for the Canberra region
by Graeme Davis
Daffodils can produce an ever improving display in spring with a little care and attention. A critical part of growing good daffodils in Canberra is the selection of what to grow and, having done that, the soil preparation and planting of your selected varieties.Selecting what to grow
You can grow most daffodils successfully in Canberra. Some will perform brilliantly in the ordinary home garden with little, if any, special attention. However, some require a considerable amount of effort and success can remain uncertain. These comments are general in nature and there are some exceptions that we can all find. These comments will, however, hopefully provide a useful guide for those looking for a spring display that gets better with the years.
The best bets
The best bets for Canberra gardens are the division 6 (Cyclamineus) and 7 (Jonquilla) hybrids. These generally produce many long lasting flowers and increase rapidly.Cyclamineus are generally smaller nodding flowers on shorter stems with longish trumpets and swept back petals. These enjoy being in well drained soil that is moist for the majority of the year, particularly if it remains reasonably cool. They will perform brilliantly in an ordinary garden bed, maybe under roses or the front of a border. They normally produce a number of flowering stems per bulb and the flowers are long lasting (often more than a month). Commonly available varieties include Jetfire and Dove Wings while slightly more difficult to obtain are Rapture, Turland Gold, Noss Mayo, Tracey and Voodoo.
There are many miniature varieties available that are easy to grow and will add interest in early spring to a special spot in the garden. The species itself is slightly harder to grow but with a little care can be established and maintained. Commonly available varieties with cyclamineus parentage include Tete a tete and Cyclataz.
Jonquilla hybrids are again wonderful in the garden bed producing a number of stems per bulb once settled. They generally have betweenone and three flowers per stem and will grow and multiply well in Canberra. Varieties include Quail, Moonfairies, Stratosphere, and Oregon Gold.
There are also a number of smaller Jonquilla hybrids that are well worth growing including Sundial and Bebop. There are also a number of species available some of which make excellent garden plants.
Others that will grow easily in the garden
Tazetta hybrids can perform well in Canberra and are well know in Canberra gardens with such varieties as Paper White, Soleil d’Or, Silver Chimes and Erlicheer (a double Tazetta) seen in many gardens. They will certainly grow and multiply well. The only potential problem is with the impact of frosts on the stems and flowers. Often the earlier flowered types can look somewhat sad with the broken stems and damaged flowers after a good frost. Growing varieties like Silver Chimes, Golden Dawn and Highfield Beauty, which flower a bit later, should reduce the risks.
There are also some delightful miniature tazettas available including Minnow which grows and performs well in our climate.
Poeticus hybrids flower toward the end of the season. The flowers tend to be small in size with very white petals and a small cup oforange and red. While they will grow well in Canberra you should look for the earlier flowering varieties if you want a display to last in the garden as the heat of October will soon see an end to the flowers. Varieties that are worth trying include Mathew Arnold and Ringer.
Bulbocodium species and hybrids can provide a wonderful display in winter in early spring. There are a range of varieties available and each requires a somewhat different situation although often avoiding summer watering will assist their performance.
Requiring a little more attention
Standard daffodils – the Trumpets, Large cups, Small cups, Doubles and Split Cup daffodils will all grow in Canberra with a little special attention. However, some grow better than others and some will get by with limited special care. The main enemy of these types is rot which will set in in warm damp soil. Given our hot summer temperatures and the occasional storms we (normally) get this can be a major problem. Of course, we make it worse when we water our gardens through summer. If you can grow them in a place without summer watering and provide a good layer of mulch then many will perform admirably for you.
As a general comment, the doubles, white trumpets and the pink cups tend to be more difficult to grow. Some of the yellow trumpets can also be somewhat problematic. The best thing to do for someone just starting out is to find out the varieties that grow well for others in the region and make that the majority of your collection.
For those looking for garden display, many of the new varieties will be too expensive. However, more modern hybrids will provide a longer lasting display in the garden in that many of them will stand adverse weather condition better. Some, however, have cups that will quickly burn in the sun. Again, the trick would be to consult with those who grow a range of varieties for guidance as to those that might best suit your requirements.
Triandrus hybrids can be a challenge in Canberra but some of the varieties available are well worth the extra effort. Key to keeping these happy is the dry dormant period over summer. I recommend growing them in pots so you can move the pot to avoid water in summer.
Many of the varieties that we see growing well in Canberra (and around the world for that matter) are miniatures. These include Angels Whisper, April Tears, Fairy Chimes, and Hawera.
Planting the bulbs
Daffodils generally prefer a well drained soil that receives good sun in spring. If you can find a place that receives winter and spring sun but then is shaded from the worst of the summer sun that would be just about perfect.
Remembering the bulb will remain in the ground for a number of years, and that it is the soil below the bulb that will feed it, best results are achieved when the soil below the level where the bulb will be planted is well dug with the addition of organic matter. The bulb then can be placed on a small bed of sand or even used potting mix. I then surround the bulb with something similar before I cover it with soil. By planting deeply the soil will not get as hot in summer and the flowers will be better. The trade-off for this is slower multiplication of the bulbs. For standard daffodils planted in the ground I like to have around 8 – 12cm of soil over the top of the bulb and then mulch with lucerne as the bulbs die down for summer.
It is important not to plant into the soil while it is still hot. All you would be doing was putting the bulb in a situation where it could easily start to rot. In this district the soil does not cool down to suitable levels until at least mid April and I normally plant around the end of April or early May. Planting at this time you should be able to water immediately on planting and growth should start almost immediately.