In the garden, shoots of spring bulbs may just be peeping out of the soil, but in Cornwall, the production of Narcissi - harvesting, cutting and packing - is in full swing. From December to April (weather permitting) the uniquely mild Cornish climate and its rich fertile soil provides us with beautiful, fresh, UK grown Narcissi.
‘Then my heart with pleasure fills and dances with the daffodils’ - William Wordsworth.
It’s not just poets whose spirits are lifted by the cheerful, sunny daffodil. Affordable and grown extensively in the UK, this humble flower is a true emblem of spring. Native to southern Europe and North Africa and bred extensively by Dutch growers since the 16th century there are thousands of different cultivars. Narcissus is the botanical name; the plural of which is narcissi. It is a member of the Amaryllis family.
Despite their delicate appearance, narcissi, or daffodils, are extremely hardy, grown outdoors all winter without additional heat or light, which surely makes them one of the most sustainable of seasonal flowers. Not only that, they are sweetly scented, and inexpensive enough to be able fill a vase in every room , the perfect pick-me-up on a cold winter’s day.
Different types of Narcissus
There are many different types and thousands of registered cultivars. The most popular are:
Trumpet: the traditional, usually bright yellow flower that we all know and love.
Doubles: with attractive ruffled petals they are often sweetly fragrant too.
Jonquils: Smaller flower heads with three or more blooms to a stem.
Tazettas: Highly fragranced, with a dozen or more flowers on a stem.
Narcissus: Everything You Need to Know
Care and condition
Availability: November – May, peaking February to March.
Vase Life: 5-7 days.
Colour range: Pure white, gold, buttercream, sunshine yellow usually with contrasting coronas.
Temperature Range: 2-5°C.
Daffodils that arrive dry in boxes can be left out of water for 3-5 days at lower temperatures.
Conditioning on Arrival
If your daffodils are delivered dry, re-cut the stems before putting them in water. Their hollow stems crush easily so cut then with a straight edge, not at an angle, using a sharp pair of scissors.
Narcissi exude a sticky, poisonous sap called lycorine which will leach into water when first cut. This can have a detrimental effect on other flowers. Let the sap drain from the flowers first before adding into designs. Change the water every time the stems are recut.
All parts of the daffodil are poisonous, and some people also have an allergic reaction to handling them, known as daffodil itch. Always clean your tools and workbench and wash your hands after handling them.
Flower meaning: You’re the only one.
Using in Design Work
Their hollow stems make them tricky to use in floral foam, they are much more suited to being placed in water. If they are needed in an arrangement such as a funeral design, make a hole in the foam first and insert a stout wire into the stem to strengthen it. Alternatively, push a plastic tube (such as the ones that come with orchids) into the foam, fill with water and group two or three daffodils together.
Can daffodils be added to other flowers?
This is a question which pops up annually during daffodil season. Narcissus produce a toxic sap which can shorten the vase life of other spring flowers when arranged in the same water. To overcome this, cut about 1cm from the bottom of the stem in a straight line and leave them in water for 24 hours to allow the sap to drain away.
Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus!
The daffodil is the national flower of Wales and will be worn with pride on 1st March, which is St. David’s Day, the patron saint of Wales. Make sure you have plenty in stock!
Narcissus was a hunter known for his beauty. He fell in love with his own reflection in a pond and stared at it until he died. Afterwards, a nodding yellow flower grew in his place, this is why their heads look down.
Su Whale is a florist and freelance writer with over twenty-five years' experience in the floristry industry. She is the author and publisher of three best-selling books: Cut Flowers, 4th edition (2020) Cut Foliage, 2nd Edition, (2021) and Houseplants (2019), all bookshelf essentials for the professional florist.