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Northwest Gardening: How to Use Dwarf Daffodils

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Looking for spring-blooming bulbs that will return year after year and resist slugs, moles and mice? Try dwarf daffodils.

 Daffodils and filberts bloom early.

Early each spring, right after a snow-white winter, my loyal little dwarfs march in to cast a fairy tale magic about my garden. Dwarf daffodils are my favorite bulbs. Look for names such as Tête-à-Tête and February Gold because these are the short, supporting players that will show up, work hard and multiply year after year--and live happily ever after.

Dwarf daffodils fare better when planted in fall. But I confess to finding forgotten bags of daffodils in my shed and planting them as late as January--and still getting blooms the first year.

Slug and mole resistant, shade tolerant and dependable, dwarf daffodils are not just loyal but their small size also makes them easy to plant. Tuck them in under the petticoats of larger shrubs, trees and perennials. All they need is 2 to 3 inches of soil or mulch on top of their pointy heads. These dwarfs look great in groups of seven or more.

Here are four ways to dig in and mine the beauty of dwarf daffodils in the landscape:

Dwarf daffodils contrast with hellebores and black mondo grass.

Tip One: Plant Them in Pots
My front porch planters bloom as early as February with these bright-yellow daffodils. I dress them up with blue and white ceramic balls, then add tall texture with a few twisty branches from my contorted filbert. With dangling catkins, the filberts bloom as easily as the daffodils. If I forget to add bulbs in fall I can just buy the presprouted dwarf daffodils that show up at my local Lowe's store in late winter. They're perfect for popping into pots right when I really crave some color.

Tip Two: Plant a Winter Theme Garden
I enjoy my winter garden of dwarf daffodils and hellebores from the inside looking out. Right outside my library window I use black mondo grass to add some contrast to the pop of yellow. The evergreen hellebore foliage helps hide the decaying daffodil leaves after the flowers fade. I don't need to replant this bed year after year because all three plants are perennials.

Dwarf daffodils with euphorbias run wild in a meadowlike planting.

Tip Three: Plant a Wild Meadow
I saw this early-spring combination in Holland at the spectacular show gardens of Keukenhof. Euphorbias and dwarf daffodils colonize or multiply on their own. And because both early bloomers resist deer, slugs, moles and mice, you'll have an encore performance even if you let them run wild in a meadow.

Dwarf daffodils brighten a shaded bed.

Tip Four: Brighten Up Shady Beds
Tulips may topple in a shaded bed as they reach for the sunlight. But my colony of 6-in-tall Tête-à-Tête daffodils returns to brighten the darkest bed on the north side of my house. The short stems don't topple over in late-winter storms, and they bloom before the slugs emerge. I've even learned to enjoy the emerald-green moss that has become the bedfellow of the daffodils in this dark and damp bed.

So what's the story about the bulbs in your garden? I'd love to hear about any dramatic performances and happy endings. Fall is for planting and a great time to discover some new stars.