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Daffodil Displays - A Celebration of Wordsworth

Daffodil Displays - A Celebration of Wordsworth

Celebrating the 250th birthday of William Wordsworth, RHS Garden Harlow Carr in Harrogate will take on a distinctly golden hue as a host of delightful daffodils put on a show across the 58-acre garden (2 March – 27 April). 

Beside the lake, beneath the trees, fluttering and dancing in the breeze… visitors can enjoy the spectacle of more than 70,000 daffodils as they pop up in beds, borders and containers throughout the garden during March and April 2020. The bulb displays will mark 250 years since the birth of one of England’s most famous romantic poets in 1770 - William Wordsworth.

Wordsworth became England's poet laureate in 1843, a role he held until his death in 1850, and is best known for his poem, I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud - commonly known as Daffodils -  which celebrates his affinity with nature and the beauty of the Lake District.

This spring more than 70 varieties of daffodil will provide up to eight weeks of colour in our Harrogate garden. They include early varieties – ‘February Gold’ and ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’ which can flower as early as January – scented varieties such as the sweet-smelling ‘Grand Soleil d’Or’ and late bloomers including ‘Thalia’ and ‘Actae’.

Words from Wordsworth’s famous poems will accompany the displays and visitors will be able to pre-order Harlow Carr’s Curator’s ten favourite varieties from the Harlow Carr Shop & Plant Centre. Normal garden admission.

Harlow Carr Curator’s Top 10 Daffodils

•             Narcissus ‘February Gold’ AGM: as the name suggests, this early variety flowers in February and through until March

•             Narcissus ‘Thalia’: multi-headed white daffodil which flowers through April and May

•             Narcissus ‘Jetfire’ AGM: well known for its distinctive orange trumpet

•             Narcissus ‘Actea’: this white daffodil – also known as a pheasant’s eye - features a short orange trumpet and looks its best in May

•             Narcissus ‘Minnow’: this pretty lemon multi-headed variety flowers in April

•             Narcissus ‘WP Milner’: this heirloom variety is good for naturalising and looks best in April

•             Narcissus ‘Peeping Tom’: features a long trumpet with slightly recurved petals. A stand-out choice for March and April

•             Narcissus ‘Grand Soleil d’Or’: a sweet-smelling variety

•             Narcissus ‘Topolino’: cute pale lemon variety with a darker trumpet. Looks best in March

•             Narcissus ‘Tete-a-Tete’: this variety offers great value with its long flowering period and many short stems from one bulb which appear in March

The heralds of spring

Daffodils have long been considered one of the heralds of spring. Planted in autumn, they spend several months developing roots before the flowers burst forth in spring. Daffodils – botanically known as narcissus - are one of the most reliable spring-flowering bulbs, blooming year after year with little attention. They grow well in containers, borders and grass, with a wide range of flower shapes, forms and sizes to choose from, making them the perfect choice to brighten up your garden throughout spring.

Daffodils - Quick facts

  • Easy-to-grow bulbs
  • Flowering in spring
  • Plant in September
  • Like well-drained soil in sun or light shade
  • Long lived and low maintenance

Daffodils are very versatile and will grow in a wide range of soil types. Ideally, they prefer a sunny spot in fertile, well-drained soil. Some cultivars will cope in light shade, particularly ‘Actaea’, 'Jenny’ and ‘Jack Snipe'. Avoid planting daffodils in waterlogged soil and deep shade. The smaller types, like 'Tête-à-tête', are ideal at the front of borders or naturalised in short grass, while taller cultivars such as 'Carlton' can be woven among other border plants or in bedding displays, or can be planted in long grass for a naturalistic look.

Daffodils are usually best planted in bold groups, rather than individually, for the greatest impact. They can also be grown in cut-flower beds, so you can pick bunches of vibrant blooms to brighten up your home in spring. If you plant a range of species, you can have flowers to pick from February through to early May.

Daffodils grow well in containers, either on their own or mixed with other spring-flowering plants. Choose the smaller types, such as white-flowered 'Toto', for small pots, windowboxes and indoor displays. Taller cultivars create bigger impact in large containers.

How to plant daffodil bulbs

Plant daffodil bulbs in early autumn, ideally September, and potted bulbs in spring before they come into flower.

They are very quick and easy to plant, and ideal for any garden, however small. ​Before planting, it’s important to dig over the soil to loosen it and alleviated any compaction. Remove any weeds and fork in plenty of organic matter to improve soil structure and drainage. It is advisable to add a general fertiliser at the rate recommended on the packet.

Be sure to set bulbs at the correct depth in the ground – equivalent to three times the bulb's height. This will help to ensure they flower well for many years to come. When planting temporary spring displays in containers, you can plant less deeply and pack the bulbs closely together, for greatest impact. However, do then transplant the bulbs into the garden after the display is over, planting more deeply.

Daffodils - Ongoing care

After planting daffodil bulbs or plants, water well to settle the soil or compost around the bulbs and get rid of any air pockets, especially if no rain is forecast. After that, bulbs and plants in the ground shouldn't need additional watering, except in long dry spells during the growing season. The compost in containers can dry out quickly, so bulbs in containers should be watered regularly throughout the growing season, until the foliage dies down.

It is generally best to remove the faded blooms after flowering, so that instead of forming seeds, the plants put all their energy back into their bulb, for a good flowering display the following year. Deadheading also keeps the display looking its best.

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