Start thinking now about your spring plantings.
Fall is for thinking about spring. Sure, winter comes in the middle, but most of our gardens are in a Sleeping Beauty state (though less beauty than sleeping).
One of the most consistent spring bloomers is the Narcissus, or daffodil. Narcissus is the scientific name. The latter is what most people call it to avoid sounding pretentious.
If you like tons of other colors, look at tulips. Just about all daffodil petals are yellow or white.
The corona or cup in the middle of the flower can be yellow, white, pink or orange. Sometimes the petals are doubled, meaning more than the standard six are present.
OK, to be scientifically correct, they really aren’t petals. The word botanists use is “tepals,” which means the petals and sepals look the same. Most monocots, including the daylily, true lily, tulip and other bulbs start with green sepals covering the flower. But as they open, the sepals change to a color similar to the petals.
In a daffodil, you have three sepals and three petals that are the same color, and thus are called tepals (bring that up at your next dinner party). But we’re going to use “petal” to make it easy.
Daffodils are like tulips and gladioli for the most part — there isn’t much of an aroma from their flowers. But that’s not always the case.
Some daffodils are fragrant, and make a wonderful addition to the garden, especially when planted next to a window or the backdoor.
Most fragrant daffodils make themselves known when cut and brought indoors where wind doesn’t dilute their perfume. Unlike lilacs, which can become overpowering, fragrant daffodils have a subtle fragrance.
Paperwhite narcissus is the granddaddy of fragrant daffodils. However, it’s best treated as a temporary blooming houseplant that eventually will find its way to the compost pile after the blooms have withered.
Paperwhite narcissus isn’t the best to plant outdoors. In northern environments, the bulbs usually freeze out or last only one year, whereas most daffodils seem to bloom for decades.
Some of the most fragrant daffodils aren’t what you typically would buy to make a colorful splash. Many miniature or small daffodils adjust for their petite stature with a multitude of flowers per stems and some powerful aromas.
Look for names such as Tazetta, Triandus, or Cyclamineus or cultivars such as Baby Boomer, Tête-a-Tête, Geranium (really) or Thalia.
True jonquils (a division of daffodils with two or more large flowers per stalk) usually are fragrant. Look for Sweet Love, Belle Estrella, or the award-winning yellow-on-yellow Kokopelli.
But the real winners in the landscape are the trumpet or large cup daffodils. Several set themselves apart for how they tickle the nose.
Of all the great smelling daffodils, Fragrant Rose is probably the winner. It’s easily obtained through most mail order bulb catalogs. Look online for companies that sell it.
Fragrant Rose is a white-petal flower with a subtle pale pink to rose-colored cup on a 10- to 15-inch stem. If you look deep into the cup, you’ll see a hint of green. The large cup darkens to a deeper pink as the flower ages.
Fragrant Breeze is another large cup daffodil; this is also one of the largest flowered types with flowers more than four inches wide. The flowers are roughly the same size as Fragrant Rose, but the cup is a golden yellow instead of pinkish rose.
Both of these daffodils usually bloom at midseason. Unfortunately, midseason is hard to peg because of the vagueness of winter and spring weather.
Cheerfulness is the perfect name for a multi-flowered daffodil. It’s a white double flower, with the center cup more a conglomeration of little white petals with touches of yellow at the throat. There usually are three to four flowers per stem, with each flower about two to three inches across. If you want a daffodil to naturalize under your trees and between your hostas, you can’t beat Cheerfulness.
Another double daffodil is Rose of May, which suggests a pattern with any daffodil that carries the word Rose in the name.
Rose of May is a true double white flower, with multiple layers of petals surrounding a multi-petal center with just that touch of yellow deep in the center again. Flowers are smaller but there usually are two per stem.
With any of the fragrant daffodils, quantity is the key word. Plant them in masses of at least 15 or 20 spaced about three inches apart. The more you plant, the more you can cut without destroying the appearance of the mass.
David Robson is a specialist with University of Illinois Extension. For more gardening information, go to www.extension.uiuc.edu/mg.