NARCISSUS or DAFFODIL

Gardeners often confuse these two words. There is really no difference, although the word daffodil generally refers to the trumpet-flowered varieties of the genus narcissus — the golden-yellow King Alfred, the white Beersheba or the yellow and creamy-white Victoria are typical examples.

The Royal Horticultural Society classification for narcissi specifies 11 divisions, the first 9 covering varieties of garden origin, species and wild forms belonging to division 10. Division 11 is reserved for narcissi which do not fall into any of these divisions. Recommended varieties from several divisions are given later under the appropriate headings. Narcissi should be planted any time between late August and early October, the earlier the better as the bulbs can make proper root development before winter. Any well-cultivated, perfectly drained soil is suitable — sour, badly-drained land causes the bulbs to rot. Compost, peat, hop manure and similar humus-forming material should be worked in before planting, plus bonemeal at 3—4 oz. per sq. yd. Note that a plump double-nosed bulb is the usual type offered in catalogues. This has, as the name indicates, two growing points producing two flowers whereas a mother bulb has four or more noses. Bulbs from the south-west and Southern Ireland will bloom a little earlier than those grown in Northern Ireland where the heavier rainfall produces rather larger bulbs. Trumpet daffodils make larger bulbs than those in other divisions, the yellow varieties usually being bigger than the whites and bicolors. Again, British bulbs will sometimes be smaller than those from Holland. It should be emphasised that size matters very little as far as the amateur is concerned, as the growth and quality of bloom will be equally good irrespective of origin, provided, of course, that they were well grown in the first instance.

Beginners usually plant too shallowly. A good general rule is to cover the bulb with soil one and a half to two times its depth on heavy or medium ground (measuring the bulb from base to shoulder). On light land plant rather deeper, say two to two and a half times the depth. Deep planting means a slightly slower rate of increase. Bulbs should be planted about 6 in. apart. Do not tie the leaves in knots after flowering, as is sometimes done, as this prevents plant food travelling down to the bulb. For the same reason, narcissus leaves should only be cut where there are plenty of bulbs and an occasional ‘miss’ the following season is immaterial. Leaves can be removed as soon as they come away easily in the hand. It is, however, very important to fill up the channel down to the bulb with soil, to prevent narcissus flies laying their eggs on the bulbs. Most varieties should be lifted every 3 or 4 years unless there are no signs of overcrowding or lack of bloom. Bulbs are usually lifted directly the foliage has died down, or when it can be readily pulled away, as mentioned earlier (usually in late June or early July). The offsets can be detached and replanted immediately or stored in a cool, dry place until the end of August.

Trumpet Daffodils:

This division covers varieties with the trumpet or corona as long as or longer than the perianth segments. All have one flower to a stem.

Beersheba: pure white. One of the best of all narcissi for growing in pots, also excellent in the garden. Individual flowers nearly 5 in. across. Increases rapidly and is good for naturalising.

Broughshane: a newer white with trumpet reflexed and frilled and extra large perianth fully 5Y2 m- across. Blooms very long-lasting, borne on firm stems and very broad foliage.

Cantatrice: another pure white with the perianth set at right angles to the long slender trumpet. A smaller, more refined bloom than Broughshane, but the stem is less firm.

Cromarty: very smooth, broad and perfectly-formed perianth. A self gold throughout. Very free-flowering and does well in town gardens. Golden Harvest: another first-class deep yellow, which is excellent for forcing. Early.

Hunter’s Moon: lemon-yellow. Blooms are very long-lasting and freely produced.

King Alfred: too well-known to need description. It is equally suitable for garden display, cutting, forcing for market, growing in pots, pans or bowls. It is, however, happier in some districts than others and is not always a success when naturalised. It is especially happy in seaside gardens. The newer yellows like Cromarty, Golden Harvest etc., are gradually taking its place and for market purposes the yellow and orange-red Fortune (which belongs to the large-cupped division) is now the most widely grown variety.

H. Krelage: one of the older whites which has a soft primrose trumpet, passing to ivory-white. It may lack the purity of colour of the latest varieties and is, of course, a smaller bloom but remains most useful for garden display and cutting, having long stems.

Trousseau: a delightful bicolour with flat pure white perianth and soft yellow trumpet which passes to creamy-bufF.

Victoria: a very old variety rather shorter in growth than most present day trumpets, but still useful for garden display and cutting. Catalogues rarely mention the pleasing vanilla fragrance!

Winter Gold: a very early deep yellow which is most effective grown in bowls of fibre.

Large-cupped Narcissi:

These again have one flower to a stem, the cup or corona is more than one-third of, but less than equal to, the length of the perianth segments. They are the largest division of narcissi and include many striking varieties with yellow and red cups. Some are liable to lose their brilliant colouring in hot sun and slight shade will lessen this tendency to fade. Varieties which are more or less sunproof include Armada, Ceylon, Flamenco, Killigrew, Rustom Pasha and Sun Chariot.

The pink narcissi like Mrs R. O. Backhouse, Rosario, Rose of Brodie, Rose of Tralee and Wild Rose belong here. There is still a considerable prejudice against pink daffodils (compare the objections to lavender, lilac and mauve roses) but any unbiased person must surely admit that some are very beautiful and a welcome break from the more orthodox colours. Note that most pinks do not show their colour until the flower is fully developed and the depth of pink varies according to the weather.

The perianth is usually white.

Armada: deep yellow perianth and vivid tangerine-red cup. Strong stem.

Holds its colour well and increases quickly. Early.

Brunswick: large, greenish-lemon cup and broad white perianth. Early and unusually long-lasting. Tall stems.

Carbineer: broad, flat yellow perianth and deep orange-red cup. Increases quickly.

Carlton: Clear soft yellow. Excellent for growing in bowls and pans and supersedes the old Sir Watkin for garden display. Good for naturalising.

Early.

Ceylon: a brilliant colour contrast. Deep gold perianth and orange-red cup. Colour needs several days to develop, but is held in hot sun.

Damson: an old variety which is still worth growing. Creamy-white perianth and long fuchsia-red cup.

Flamenco: creamy-white perianth, saucer-shaped cup the colour of a Seville orange. Almost sunproof.

Fortune: the most widely grown variety for market and indispensable in the garden for cutting and forcing. Clear yellow perianth and warm orange-red cup. Very early, tall and increases quickly but the stems are somewhat brittle at the base and may topple in very windy weather, unless sheltered by a hedge.

Green Island: very large blooms of great substance and long-lasting.

Perianth white, cup bowl-shaped, greenish-white at the base, inside passing to white, which in turn passes to greenish-lemon at the edge. Hades: creamy-white perianth and deep cherry-red cup. An old variety still outstanding for intensity of colour. Havelock: clear self yellow. Excellent for cutting.

John Evelyn: broad white perianth and large, frilled apricot-orange cup. A somewhat rough flower by modern standards and fades promptly in sun, but still useful for a slightly shaded position in the garden. Killigrew: bright yellow perianth and warm orange-red cup with good colour stability in sunlight.

Mrs R. 0. Backhouse: the first of the pink daffodils. Curved white perianth and large trumpet-shaped, apricot cup, passing to shell-pink. Pepper: a very early variety for beds or naturalising; may also be grown at the back of the rockery as it only reaches 16 in. The perianth is bright yellow, the cup deep orange, the colour suffusing the perianth with a coppery glow.

Porthilly: clear yellow perianth and orange-crimson cup. Rosario: a new pink from Tasmania. Smooth pure white perianth and cup of almost trumpet size, colour pale primrose overlaid rosy-pink. Rose of Brodie: white perianth. Cup opens creamy-yellow passing to pale rosy-pink, with a touch of pale green at the base. Increases quickly and is pleasantly fragrant.

Rose ofTralee: white perianth pointed at the tips, long cup of rosy apricot-pink right down to the base, passing to white as the flower ages. Rouge: a very distinct colour combination. Yellow perianth overlaid coppery-pink. Cup brick-red. Early. Unfortunately the colours fade very quickly in sunlight and it is advisable to cut the blooms when still young for indoor decoration.

Rustorn Pasha: golden-yellow perianth and long, orange-red cup which deepens as the bloom ages. Sunproof. Does well in bowls. Sun Chariot: another remarkable red and yellow which holds its colour well in sun. The broad, flat, pointed perianth is golden-yellow, the goblet-shaped cup orange-red. A fully open bloom of this variety has been kept for 28 days in perfect condition.

Wild Rose: a medium-sized flower with white perianth and clear pink cup, the pink being held until the bloom is nearly finished. Shorter in growth than some pinks, but increases well.

Small-cupped Narcissi. This division covers narcissi where the cup is not more than one-third the length of the perianth segments. Most varieties are late flowering. The blooms are again borne on single stems. Blarney: smooth white perianth and flat apricot-salmon cup with narrow primrose rim. Delightful for cutting.

Chinese White: very broad, smooth white perianth and saucer-shaped cup of white faintly shaded green in the eye.

Cushendall: pure white perianth and pale creamy cup with a cool mossy-green centre. Very beautiful and excellent for cutting. Late. Firetail: an old variety still useful for garden display and cutting. Creamy-white perianth and vivid crimson-scarlet cup. Fades very quickly in sunlight and should be cut young to preserve the colour. Increases rapidly. Late.

Frigid: a very late variety coming at the end of May. Pure icy-white throughout except for an emerald-green eye.

Lady Diana Manners: pale primrose perianth, cup deep crimson-scarlet.

La Riante: very flat overlapping white perianth, cup intense scarlet.

Excellent for growing in bowls.

Limerick: pure white overlapping perianth and dark cherry-red cup.

Good colour stability in hot weather.

Mystic: white overlapping perianth with large flat white eye shading to soft green in the centre. The cup is white and salmon-orange. Excellent for cutting. Very late.

Double narcissi:

The name is self-explanatory. Some are unsuitable for growing indoors.

Camellia: soft primrose-yellow. Perfectly formed blooms with evenly-spaced petals and borne on firm stems. Excellent for cutting but unsuitable for indoor cultivation. Daphne: pure white. Very fragrant. Late. Indian Chief: a mixture of sulphur-yellow and orange. Irene Copeland: a mixture of creamy-white and primrose-yellow. Early. Can be gently forced to come into bloom in February. Excellent for cutting.

Mary Copeland: probably the most showy double variety, being a mixture of creamy-white and orange-red.

Van Sion or Telemonius plenus: the old-fashioned double yellow daffodil which first flowered in this country in 1620. It is tough and almost indestructible and is readily naturalised in grass, alongside hedges, in fact almost anywhere. Can also be forced to come into bloom in early February. In the garden it is one of the first narcissi to open.

Other Divisions:

There are several attractive hybrids of Narcissus triandrus, notably Thalia, a pure white chalice-cupped variety, sometimes called the orchid-flowered daffodil. It bears 2 to 4 flowers on a stem. February Gold is a cyclamineus hybrid with golden-yellow flowers having petals reflexed like a cyclamen. It blooms in late February or the beginning of March and is exceptionally long-lasting. Do not overlook the old-fashioned jonquil which bears 6—8 small-cupped deep yellow flowers on 1 ft. stems. The rush-like foliage is very distinct. There are single and double forms, both very fragrant, somewhat like orange blossom.

The Poeticus varieties prefer a rich, deep soil, which does not dry out too easily. The double white Poeticus or gardenia narcissus (Narcissus poeticus flore pleno) is often seen in florists’ windows. It flowers nearly a week after most narcissi, growing to about 15 in. Deep planting (and some patience) are required as it does not bloom freely for a year or two and should always be left undisturbed for as long as possible. Very fragrant. Unsuitable for growing indoors. The old Pheasant’s Eye (Narcissi poeticus recurvus) is also very late, purely for outdoors and richly scented. The perianth is snow white with reflexing petals, and a yellow cup edged orange-red. It is excellent for cutting and for naturalising in grass.

Among the many species and varieties suitable for the rock garden, Hawera is a cross between Narcissus triandrus and JV. jonquilla, growing to 9 in. It bears 2 to 4 drooping soft yellow flowers on a stem with reflexed petals and a bell-shaped cup. JV. bulbocodium is the hoop petticoat daffodil, growing to only 6 in. There are several forms, JV. b. conspicuus being the best known. The golden-yellow flower is 4—5 in. high with a wide ‘hoop petticoat’ cup and thin petals, and appears in early April. A sandy soil enriched with peat is essential, also a fair amount of moisture while in growth. Given these conditions the bulbs increase quickly.

Narcissi for Naturalising:

Rabbits, rats, mice and squirrels seldom, if ever, interfere with foliage or bulbs. When planting in grass, woodland, orchards etc. always group the bulbs in irregular drifts, never in straight rows. It is a good plan to make a centre from which the drift develops.

Do not cut the grass until the foliage has died down and when making the final, end-of-season cut, do this as late as possible in autumn, to ensure that the grass is fairly short when the bulbs bloom the following spring. Do not confuse planting in grass with planting in lawns, which is quite unsuitable for narcissi. Mowing necessitates removing the foliage while the bulbs are still in bloom, which shortens their lives.

If you are planting large numbers of narcissi wait until rain has softened the ground. Barr’s Bulb Planter is a first-rate tool for this job as it does not disturb the grass and saves time compared with an ordinary trowel.

It cuts out a clean round piece of turf, leaving a hole to take the bulb.

On making the second cutting it clears itself of the first piece of turf which is then available to fill in the hole. Plant the bulbs about 8 in. apart to avoid overcrowding.

Aside from financial considerations, it is often inadvisable to naturalise some of the more expensive present-day varieties which require periodic lifting and a richer diet than is provided in rough grass. Catalogues often indicate the most suitable varieties. Note that King Alfred is a doubtful proposition, as it does not thrive everywhere.

The following can be specially recommended:

Beersheba (White Trumpet)

Carlton (Small-cupped)

Mystic (Small-cupped),

Pepper (Large-cupped)

Thalia (Triandrus Hybrid)

Van Sion (Double)

Various species, notably Narcissus poeticus recurvus (Pheasant’s Eye), JV. poeticus Jiore pleno (double white Poeticus) and the various forms of N. bulbocodium are also suitable.

Growing Narcissi Indoors:

Plant as early as possible and in any case not later than the last week of September. Bowls suitable for narcissi should be 9 in. in diameter and 4 in. deep, and made of china or terracotta. Bulb fibre is an excellent medium in which to grow narcissi. This consists of a mixture of coconut fibre, peat, shell and crushed charcoal. Before planting make sure the fibre is thoroughly soaked. If fit for use, it should crumble or fall away when squeezed with one’s hand. Alternatively John Innes No. 2 Potting Compost may be used, but it is essential to add crocks for drainage and to cover these with a layer of moss or other fibrous material to prevent the compost being washed down to the crocks. Plant each bulb so that the tip shows just above the fibre or compost. Distance apart does not really matter although ½ m- s a con’ venient spacing.

Place the bowls in a cool, dark place (a cupboard is suitable unless warm and/or dry). Some gardeners use a covered cold frame, garden shed or garage, but it is equally easy to plunge the bowls in the open garden, covering with 4—6 in. of ashes, leaf mould or soil. Keep this covering damp and do not transfer the bowls indoors until they have made about 2 in. of top growth. They should then be brought into the light gradually over a period of say, 10 days. A cool room is best and it must be free from draughts. Keep the compost or fibre reasonably moist. Varieties specially recommended for bowls include Cromarty, Golden Harvest, Hunter’s Moon, King Alfred, Mrs E, H. Krelage and Winter Gold in the trumpets division. Large-cupped varieties include Carlton, Damson, Fortune, Hades, Pepper and Rustom Pasha. The double yellow Van Sion is also reliable.

Cragford is one of the Tazetta narcissi which often do rather better indoors, although some like the double creamy-white Cheerfulness and the primrose and tangerine Scarlet Gem are suitable for outdoors. This group bears several flowers on a stem, Cragford having a firm white perianth and a vivid orange-scarlet, flattened and frilled cup. It usually carries 4 to 6 blooms on each stem, and can be flowered by Christmas. Narcissus bulbs used for indoor cultivation are to a large extent exhausted after flowering and are generally discarded. It is, however, sometimes worth while planting them in the garden as they will occasionally regain their strength after a couple of years.

Growing Narcissi in Pebbles and Moss:

Cragford and the other Tazetta varieties may be grown in pebbles and water or moss. For the former method, use pebbles about ½ m- m diameter, filling the bowl three parts full. Place the bulbs in the pebbles so that about half of the bulb is visible above. Fill the bowl with water up to the base of the bulbs. The pebbles provide anchorage for the roots. Staking is rather tricky, unless short sticks are inserted in small pieces of rubber when planting the bulbs.

When growing in bowls of moss, pack this round the bulbs which should be planted almost touching one another. Make sure the moss never dries out by inspecting the bowls every second or third day, and it is best to tip the bowl on one side to permit surplus moisture to run off.

Window Boxes:

If you are in a built-up area avoid the white or pink varieties, whether trumpets or other types, as these colours may easily be spoilt by soot or smoke. It is best to concentrate on varieties with relatively short stems and medium-sized blooms. For example, the white triandrus hybrid Thalia is excellent for window boxes as it only grows to 15 in. Pepper is also a good choice. Where taller varieties with larger blooms are more practicable King Alfred, Winter Gold and Carlton should be tried. The white Bccrsheba could be grown where smoke and soot are negligible factors.

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