March's plant of the month

Go-faster daffodils in a rush to reach spring

Narcissus cyclamineusWith petals thrown back over its shoulder it looks like this diminutive, cyclamen-flowered daffodil is going for a land speed record. But surely that would be more appropriate for a bluebell! (Bluebell was the name of many Campbell family land and sea speed record-breaking cars and boats). Narcissus cyclamineus is raring to go come March at Wisley, and where it is planted en masse under the yet-to-emerge woodland canopy, it looks like a magic carpet of yellow…just waiting to lift you up and speed you away.
This unusual looking daffodil reaches only up to 20cm (8in) tall, with reflexed petals (perianth segments) and a more recognisable standard yet slender trumpet (corona). At Wisley we love it, and it thrives on Battleston Hill, and especially in the Wild Garden. Down here it lights up the woodland floor alongside sparkling white Leucojum vernum (spring snowflakes) and pale purple crocuses beneath camellias, magnolias, Stachyurus and Chimonanthus shrubs and the last of the winter’s witch hazels. It’s exceptionally pretty.
Narcissus cyclamineus – so called because of the similarity with reflexed cyclamen petals – is very easy to grow too, and over the years it has naturalised and spread in the areas we’ve planted it. And it has the accolade of the RHS Award of Garden Merit too – the AGM. To prove just how durable and tolerant this lovely little bulb is, the Wild Garden, where it does so well, is on wet, acid soil. Can nothing slow it down?
So come bulb-shopping time this autumn, don’t forget to speed your way to spring with a go-faster daffodil, and pop it on your wish list.

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