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The National Garden Bureau has proclaimed 2017 the Year of the Daffodil. Each year, the garden organization selects certain plants to feature and market throughout the growing season. One perennial, one annual, one bulb and an edible are selected. The daffodil is this year's choice in the bulb category.

With bright colors and the promise of spring's arrival, daffodils brighten gardens as early as March in our area, peaking in April and early May. The smaller, rock garden varieties bloom first, followed by the larger types later in the spring.

Daffodils are an amazing varied and eccentric group of garden blooms. While many gardeners think of the traditional, cupped, sunny yellow blossoms that herald the new spring, these plants are available in hundreds of varieties and a wide range of colors, sizes and flower forms.

Daffodils are the classic fall planted bulb. They require a period of cold over the winter season before bursting into bright and beautiful bloom in spring.

Gardeners begin ordering daffodils as early as July when fall garden catalogs begin to arrive in the mail. Each year, dozens of new daffodil varieties become available. With each passing year, they grow more and more unusual.

Daffodils are also available in a range of bloom times or seasons. There are early season daffodils, midseason bloomers and late season varieties. By selecting some of each, it is possible to feature blooming daffodils in the garden from March into June.

Colorful, cheerful blooms

Daffodils come in more than just bright yellow. There are many varieties available that bloom in pink, orange, cream, red, even green. And, of course, many daffodils feature bi- colored blooms.

Often, the ray petals and the cup of the daffodil are two different shades. The cup may be orange, for example, while the outer petals are yellow or white.

My favorites are the many varieties of pink daffodils. Some are very light pink while others are nearly red in color.

In the fall planting season, prepackaged assorted blends of colorful daffodils are usually available. This gives you an easy mixture of a wide variety of colorful plants.

Double your pleasure

In addition to the standard cup and saucer type of flower, there are other daffodils available that bloom in pom-pom like masses of bright color.

These double flowering daffodils lack the standard cup, instead growing into a large, spherical cluster of colorful petals.

There are double flowered daffodils in pink, yellow, orange, white and mixtures of these colors.

Butterfly daffodils

Another unusual daffodil flower form is the butterfly daffodil, sometimes called split corona daffodil. With these daffodils, the familiar cup is flattened and often shaped into winglike form, creating the appearance of a butterfly sitting upon the outer petals.

Butterfly daffodils come in a wide range of colors and sizes.

Miniature delights

The earliest blooming daffodils are the tiny rock garden or miniature varieties. You will often find these tiny daffodils in forced bulb arrangements.

Most of the miniature daffodils grow only about 6 to 8 inches high with beautiful, often eccentric blooms. Rip Van Winkle is one such daffodil that features a "spiny" globe of bloom. Adding these unusual, early-season daffodils to your beds and borders is a fun way to kick off the spring gardening season.

Find Rob Zimmer online at www.robzimmeroutdoors.com. On Facebook at www.facebook.com/RobZimmerOutdoors.

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