Plant daffodils now for spring

Now that fall is almost here, it's time to think about planting your hardy daffodils. ''The earlier you get these bulbs into the ground, the better they'll root before cold weather and perform next spring,'' says Caroline Whitenack, a W. Atlee Burpee Seed Company horticulturist.

Daffodils begin to bloom early, with February Gold and Peeping Tom heading the list of early bloomers.

Giant Trumpet daffodils also are undaunted by a late snow that may frost their petals.

The blooms of the Explorer daffodil are especially beautiful when planted in clumps, and the solid-yellow King Alfred is always dependable.

Then there are the white types, Beersheba and Mt. Hood, as well as the bicolors for interesting contrast.

There are also the large-cupped varieties, such as Red Goblet, with its orange-red cup and deep golden yellow petals, and the Duke of Windsor, which has a golden orange cup against firm-textured white petals.

If double flowers are your choice, White Lion Daffodil is an eye-catcher, with its large, waxy white blooms accented by soft apricot-yellow centers.

For a real conversation piece, though, try some exotic Butterfly daffodils, whose dramatic stripes of yellow, orange, or scarlet radiate from the centers of lovely ''split cups'' to produce striking blooms.

Daffodils are easy to grow, and they thrive in either a sunny or a partly shaded area. And they are very attractive whether you grow them in large patches , such as in meadows; or in small clumps at one end of your home garden.

For year-after-year success with daffodils, be sure to give them a balanced garden fertilizer during flowering time (as directed on the package). Apply it just before a rain, if possible, so it will be absorbed immediately.

Be sure to let the plant's leaves, or foliage, die naturally. Together with the fertilizer, this withering foliage will manufacture needed nutrients for next year's blooms. And the better your bulbs develop, the better they'll make your floral display next year.

For best results, daffodil bulbs should be planted as early in the fall as possible in well-prepared, at least fairly well-drained soil. Plant your large-flowered types about 4 to 6 inches deep and 6 to 8 inches apart.

If you buy miniature varieties, plant them at the same depth, but closer together.

You can look forward to more than a month of daffodil bloom next spring by planting different varieties now.

You can get a free copy of Burpee's latest fall bulb catalog by writing to W. Atlee Burpee Company, 300 Park Avenue, Warminster, Pa. 18974.

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