Miniature daffodils: how to grow and plant miniature narcissi
From her small nursery in a North Yorkshire back garden, Anne Wright grows the most exquisite tiny narcissi. She gives her expert advice on how to plant and care for these miniature daffodils. Words Alys Fowler, photographs Jason Ingram
For almost 40 years, Anne Wright has been one of the UK’s leading miniature daffodil breeders. Anne breeds and propagates miniature narcissi in her suburban back garden. She also owns Dryad Nursery in North Yorkshire.
If you want one of her narcissi – and I can’t imagine a soul in the world who wouldn’t be smitten by their perfect proportion, innate grace and delicate appearance – then you’re going to have to be quick off the mark, quite literally. First you’ll have to join her list, which is essentially a worldwide fan club, then you’ll get an email detailing the exact hour when the list is going to go live.
It takes three to four years for a narcissi seedling to flower, then Anne will chip the successful ones and wait another two to three years for those to flower. It is, as Anne admits, very hard work. “I do seven days a week, often ten hours a day,” she says, but miniature daffodils have her heart and her work is testament to that.
Read our expert guide to planting narcissi.
How to grow miniature daffodils
When to plant miniature daffodils
Plant miniature narcissi bulbs in autumn. Most are hardy outside in the UK if planted in the ground. However, if you are growing them in pots, be careful not to allow the roots to freeze badly – you could put them in a cold frame in bad winter weather.
How to grow miniature daffodils in pots
Anne grows her daffodils in both pots and raised beds. “If you want to plant in the garden, containers and raised beds are best, as slugs and miniatures don’t mix,” she says. The pots she uses are clay, plunged in damp sand in well-ventilated greenhouse, and allowed to become completely dry from May to September when she repots.
The best compost for growing miniature narcissi
For pots Anne uses a 50:50 mix of perlite and potting compost, such as John Innes No.2 or No.3. She half fills the pots with the compost mix then adds a thin layer of coarse sand on to which she places the bulb, before covering it with more sand and then filling the pot with compost. There’s no extra fertiliser in the mix. She uses a half-strength tomato feed after flowering to build up the bulbs – but doesn’t deadhead, as she collects the seeds. Seedlings are repotted after two years, but all the rest of her bulbs are repotted every year.
For her raised beds Anne uses spent bulb compost, topped with a 20cm-layer of pure sand, top dressed with railway ballast. She also creates mixed planters in large containers that she fills with spring flowers and bedding plants and then sinks a 9cm pot of miniature daffodils into the middle, so she can change cultivars throughout the season, dropping in a new one as the old one goes over. “This way I can have non-stop flowering from early January to the last week of April.”
The best miniature daffodils to grow
A cultivar bred by Brain Duncan with a flanged, pure-white trumpet. Height: 15cm.
Small, ivory-white flowers that have a slightly swept-back perianth and expanded corona. Bred by Anne. Height: 15cm.
Narcissus x litigiosus ‘Giselle’
A much-coveted, self-sown hybrid that was found by Anne. It has an all-white corona and perianth, and is said to be easier to grow than other Narcissus x litigiosus hybrids. Height: 10cm.
Narcissus ‘Little Dryad’
Named for Anne’s nursery, it has a cool, ivory-white flower with swept-back perianth, straight corona and flared mouth. Height: 12cm.
Narcissus ‘Cheeky Chappie’
A show winner with lemon-yellow corona and short, reflexed, white perianth. Bred by Brian Duncan. Height: 10cm.
A readily available, old cultivar with delicate, pale-yellow and white flowers with a straight corona and perianth that doesn’t fully reflex. 20cm.
Useful information Dryad is a mail-order nursery only and doesn’t open to the public. Anne’s bulb list usually comes out in June, and you can add your name to her email list via her website: dryad-home.co.uk
Jason Ingram is an award winning garden photographer based in Bristol, UK. He travels widely shooting for magazines, book publishers and advertising agencies. He also works with top international garden designers and Landscape Architects on private projects worldwide.
Alys Fowler is a horticulturist, garden writer and Guardian columnist.