Even as daffodil season fades from memory, catalogs for fall bulb planting begin to arrive. There are a couple of reasons for that. The merchants want daffodils and other spring blooming bulbs to be fresh on your mind in hopes you will order soon and also because they would like to have orders to begin processing them at proper planting time.

In regards to that, I hope you availed yourselves of the fall bulb sale at the library last year and plan to buy again this fall, for the sale is to be repeated. Several varieties of daffs were offered and the event sold out right away. We’ll keep you posted this year so you won’t miss it.

Daffodils are only one genera of bulbs that need fall planting, but they are, far and away, the most popular among those with staying power. Tulips are, for the most part, annuals in the southern states. They do not cotton to winter wet and warm soil and peter out after their admittedly spectacular show once only.

The ladies that ran the show last year did a yeoman (yeowoman?) job in presenting their wares, sacked up in certain numbers of each variety. The choices were of daffodils that succeed here with little trouble, and such will be the case again this fall.

Anyone who got their bulbs in the ground before freeze-up had reliable results with bloom this past spring.

We’re not going to list all the varieties they had last time, but just mention some of the most popular. The old ‘King Alfred’ is not available today in its pure form, but a good substitute is ‘Dutch Master,’ a big blowzy daff with fluted trumpet for those who crave a big flower for cutting. At the other extreme is ‘Tete-a-Tete,’ a miniature to 6 inches with multiple flowers per stem and as good as it gets for naturalizing. It multiplies prolifically and holds up to rain or sleet.

‘Ice Follies’ has a large white petaled flower with yellow center that fades to cream. It also is excellent for naturalizing and, at the same time, works well in formal applications. It has short stems in relation to the flower size, perhaps up to a foot or so, and holds up well to the vicissitudes of late winter weather.

Another great naturalizer that shows up like a neon light at a distance is ‘Jetfire.’ It sports a bright orange trumpet and yellow petals. Excellent for naturalizing, it multiplies rapidly and holds up in bad weather.

While I am at it, I want to mention a couple more bulbs outside the realm of daffodils but reliably perennial.

I touted a couple of months ago the almost unknown starflower, botanically Ipheion uniflorum, that blooms before most daffodils and right after crocuses. Most are a pale mauve or blue, but there are named varieties of darker blue or white. I have had more success with the straight species.   

Crocuses, of course, may flower as early as January or February. Who could be without them? They are the first flower of spring for most people, but are definitely not the first to bloom if you search a little.

So, we’re back to daffodils and, believe it or not, there is at least one that will, by its second year, flower as early as Christmas. ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’ is just a plain yellow long-cup daffodil, but its extremely early bloom will make your neighbors envious

We have had them on the table at Christmas several times, and once as early as Thanksgiving. They will have them at the sale. Buy them up.


JIMMY WILLIAMS is the garden writer for The Post-Intelligencer, where he can be contacted on Monday mornings at 642-1162.

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