Daffodil inspiration at RHS Garden Wisley this spring

The formal garden with blocks of daffodils and polyanthus

The formal garden with blocks of daffodils and polyanthus - Credit: Leigh Clapp

As the daffodils start to appear again, take a stroll through the stunning grounds of RHS Garden Wisley to enjoy these glorious harbingers of spring at their very best

Sunshine in a flower, Narcissus 'Saint Keverne'

Sunshine in a flower, Narcissus 'Saint Keverne' - Credit: Leigh Clapp

Always a pleasure to visit at any time of year, RHS Garden Wisley puts on a golden show this month, with carpets of nodding daffodils set amongst blossom on the bough and the emerging spring palette.

Blue and yellow is a classic combination

Blue and yellow is a classic combination - Credit: Leigh Clapp

As the flagship garden of the RHS, they always create a dazzling daffodil display, these cheerful flowers spreading sunshine all around you as they announce that winter is well and truly over.

Two-toned daffodils make an impact

Two-toned daffodils make an impact - Credit: Leigh Clapp

So, it’s well worth taking a stroll through these beautiful gardens to enjoy this spring spectacle at its best.

Translucent 'Ice Follies'

Translucent 'Ice Follies' - Credit: Leigh Clapp

The daffodil tour

When I pay a visit, I like to start by admiring the regimented rows of the formally planted beds by the Long Pond, along with the sheer mass of nodding blooms in the Wild Garden, Rock Garden and Seven Acres.

Next, wander along the lawned paths of the Jubilee Arboretum as the sea of gold and white daffodils, that includes Narcissus ‘Ice Follies’ and ‘Sir Winston Churchill’, stretches before you into the distance.

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Then, in the Trials Garden, you can even get a sneak preview of the new varieties being assessed, between mid-February and mid-April, for qualities such as impact, grace, charm and weather sturdiness, before they come onto the market.

Expert advice

The team leader of the Herbaceous Department at RHS Garden Wisley, Lucie Tait, also recommends paying a visit to the Alpine Meadow: “I am particularly fond of the Narcissus bulbocodium, the tiny hoop petticoat daffodils that have naturalised over many years” she says. “They really dance and trumpet and do look so lovely.”

For those looking to recreate their own daffodil show at home, she suggests taking a look at the showy varieties on the Conifer Lawn, which tend to be more reasonably priced than the smaller, rarer ones. Varieties such as ‘Border Beauty’ and ‘Golden Harvest’, ‘Sailboat’ and orange ‘Jetfire’ are all highlights.

Finally, she also has this advice for those planning to create their own daffodil display: “Remember when planting bulbs to plant them at three times the depth of the actual bulb,” says Lucie. “This means they won’t flower in the first year but will be better quality when they flower in the second year and the years after.

“It’s also best to feed the area in the autumn, and try to not walk on it if it’s a grassy area.

“Last but not least, allow six weeks after flowering for the foliage to die back and, if conditions are dry, water the foliage as it feeds the bulb for the next year’s flowering.”

Throughout the gardens at Wisley, the daffodils are augmented with ribbons of muscari and other spring bulbs, interplanted with contrasting polyanthus or planted under canopies of malus and prunus blossom, providing further inspiration.


Need to know:

• RHS Garden Wisley, Woking, Surrey GU23 6QB Tel: 0845 260 9000 / rhs.org.uk/Gardens/Wisley

• Open daily (times vary)

• Normal admission: Adults £12.20, children £5.25

• On Friday March 7, entry is free for one day, so enjoy an early spring stroll and warm up afterwards with refreshments from the new Food Hall


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Did you know?

There are more than 50 species of daffodil and 25,000 varieties

Daffodils are divided into 13 divisions, based mainly on flower form, such as trumpet, large-cupped, double and split-corona

The name ‘daffodil’ was first recorded in 1538; prior to that, it was known as an ‘affodell’

Other names for the daffodil include jonquil, narcissus and paperwhite

Daffodils were brought to Britain by the Romans as they thought the sap had healing powers

The bulbs and leaves are poisonous so take care

In Victorian times, daffodils symbolised chivalry but these days they are generally associated with hope

Care of daffodils

• Easy to grow, they need well-drained soil and sun or light shade

• August and September are the best months to plant the bulbs

• Older varieties naturalise best

• The flowers will always face the sun

• Red cups and pinks fade in full sun

• If planting in a lawn, the bulbs need to be placed at a depth of approximately 15cm

• In beds, borders or containers, plant at a depth of three times height

• If the soil is heavy, mix grit into base of planting hole

• Don’t plant where the ground can be waterlogged

• Plant in drifts

• Deadhead flowers when finished to ensure next year’s display

• Let the foliage die down for around six weeks

• Don’t tie the foliage

• They need the energy from the foliage for the bulb to produce next year’s flowers

• After flowering, keep watered and fed with high potash, until leaves die back

• Remove and burn any bulbs with diseased foliage

• Divide over-crowded clumps late summer and replant offsets

• Store lifted bulbs in cool, dark place

• You can create your own cultivar by cross-pollinating seeds; it will take two to three years to reach flowering size

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