Species daffodils

These natural types have British and Mediterranean origins

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Golden daffodils are a sight to lift the spirits this month, their sunny trumpet faces opening up to the warming spring weather. There are plenty to choose from, but for a little brightness with a lot of difference why not try one of the rarer species forms. These refined little treasures have a grace and charm that’s a cut above some of the big and blousy varieties.

They hail from as far south as North Africa, so their needs differ according to the type you plant. Our wild British daffodil, Narcissus pseudonarcissus, is a species daffodil in its own right. But because of habitat loss it’s now found in only a few places in the far west and north of the UK, so most daffodils you see growing ‘wild’ will more probably be garden escapees. The true native daffodil has a golden yellow trumpet with a ring of paler lemon-yellow petals, and blueish-green foliage, thriving in damp meadows and woodland edges in sun or semi-shade.

The Tenby daffodil, N. obvallaris, is thought to be a subspecies and has classic golden colouring. It’s a tougher too, often described as ‘bomb proof’, and it will be happy nodding away in almost any garden soil with very little help. Daffodils should never be dug up from the wild so make sure you buy them from a reputable supplier, especially when buying these British natives.

Many narcissus species available to us originate from the mountains of Spain and Portugal, such as the distinctive N. bulbocodium with its large hoop-skirt flower, or the creamy white bell-shaped, N. triandus, also known as angel’s tears. It can be hard to find the pure species of this rare daffodil, but many of its varieties such as ‘Hawera’ and ‘Petrel’ still have the same attractive and unusual rounded-out bell shape.

A few Spanish species, such as N. tazetta (the famous paperwhite that can be forced for Christmas flowers) aren’t hardy enough for growing outdoors, but most will do well in a sunny spot in the garden anywhere in the UK. They often thrive where the bulbs can be baked in dry soil during their summer dormant period.