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Seeking the pink in daffodils.

There isn't a true pink yet, but hybridizers are getting closer

THUMBING THROUGH bulb catalogs, you can easily be seduced by the gorgeous flowers that stare back at you from the colorful photographs. Unusual varieties like "pink" daffodils are particularly hard to resist. But gardeners should be aware that what you see is not always what you get.

The first pink daffodil, 'Mrs. R. O. Backhouse', was introduced more than 40 years ago. Like the first so-called black tulips or yellow petunias, it doesn't really live up to its billing; its trumpet is actually more apricot and yellow than pink. Nevertheless, increased demand has inspired bulb hybridizers to introduce many new pink varieties over the past five years, and some of them are getting closer to their goal. Still, don't expect to find a true pink yet.


Enticed by the catalog pictures, we planted 17 varieties of daffodils last fall in Sunset's experimental garden in Menlo Park, California. We included any that had the word pink in its name or was described or shown in at least one catalog as pink (one catalog might describe a daffodil as pink while another one says it's apricot). The results, shown here, speak for themselves.

Although all the plants produced very attractive flowers, we didn't find any truly pink ones. The closest was 'Pink Wonder' with its soft coral trumpet. Others ranged from yellowish ('Palmares') to coral or orange and yellow ('Petit Four', 'Pink Charm', 'Romance') to apricot ('Rose Caprice'). In our test, apricot daffodils often faded to coral, coral faded to pale yellow.

Some growers suggest that pink daffodils may grow pinker in cool, moist springs like those in Holland. Soil acidity may also affect color. But our survey of professional growers and gardeners around the West suggests that you can expect the results you see here in other Western climates.

To get the most intense color with minimal fading, plant daffodils in filtered or partial shade, especially in hot inland climates.


Nurseries carry some pink daffodils, but mail-order suppliers such as those listed here generally carry a wider selection. Catalogs are free.

Dutch Gardens, Box 200, Adelphia, N.J. 07710; (908) 780-2713. Sells 'Palmares', 'Petit Four', 'Pink Pride', 'Romance', and 'Salome'.

K. Van Bourgondien & Sons, Inc., 245 Farmingdale Rd., Box 1000, Babylon, N.Y. 11702; (800) 552-9996. Sells 'Accent', 'Filly', 'Foundling', 'Mrs. R. O. Backhouse', 'Palmares', 'Passionale', 'Petit Four', 'Pink Charm', 'Romance', 'Rose Caprice', 'Roseworthy', 'Salome', and 'Solo' (total order must be at least $50).

Netherland Bulb Co., Inc., 13 McFadden Rd., Easton, Pa. 18042; (800) 788-8547. Sells 'Pink Wonder'.

Park Seed Co., Cokesbury Rd., Greenwood, S.C. 29647; (800) 845-3369. Sells 'Accent', 'Palmares', 'Replete', and 'Rosy Cloud'.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Swezey, Lauren Bonar
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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