Narcissus Bulbs and Daffodil Varieties
Whether grown in pots or borders, naturalised in grass, or as underplanting in the shrubbery, narcissi provide colour and beauty early in the year and by careful selection of varieties one can have a show of bloom from March to May. If left undisturbed they soon become established and flower freely for many years without much attention. For many people they signify spring and as such are a very welcome sight. The popularity of thisbegan during the latter half of the last century when a group of enthusiastic growers started crossbreeding until today a marvellous range exists.
The family is divided into a number of groups, most of which are decided by the size of the flowers. Sometimes doubt arises when daffodils are referred to as narcissi. This is quite correct since daffodils with their large trumpets are simply one section of the genus Narcissus.
Narcissi form roots early in autumn and the end of August is none too soon to start planting. This should be completed before the last week in September if the finest results are to be obtained, but it can be continued until November. Early planting is especially necessary with the Poeticus varieties, for in the case of this group the old roots remain active even while the fresh roots are forming.
Although not fastidious about soil, narcissi appreciate an open and sunny site that has been well cultivated and manured for a previous crop — a position from which earlyhave been lifted, for instance, will prove most suitable. They should never be planted on freshly manured land, though ideally the soil should contain plenty of humus. Alternatively, the soil may be rendered suitable by an application of bonemeal at the rate of 2 oz. per sq. yd. Before the are planted. Being slow in action, the bonemeal provides nourishment gradually over a long period. The site should be well drained, for a waterlogged, sour soil will not produce good flowers.
For the best effect, bulbs should be planted in groups of at least three rather than in a straight line, and a group of twenty or more bulbs of the same variety can present a really marvellous show. Depth of planting is most important, and many cases of ‘blindness’ can be attributed to the bulbs being placed too near the surface. On average, they should be covered with 4 in. of soil, though small-sized varieties need not be buried deeper than 2 in. In a heavy soil, additional silver sand around the bulbs will be beneficial and discourage any tendency towards basal rot. Annual lifting is unnecessary — the bulbs can be left undisturbed for several years, but if it becomes necessary to move them or they become overcrowded, this should be done after the foliage has died down in July and the bulbs are dormant. They should then be cleaned and replanted as soon as possible.
When planting, a trowel is greatly preferable to a dibber which is liable to leave a hollow space under the bulb. It is essential that the bulbs be handled carefully when either lifting or planting as any bruising or damage will make it easy for disease or pests to enter. Before, rub off the old, dried and broken bulb tunics, and remove the withered roots, but do not break away any offsets.
It is as well to be clear about the types of bulb offered in catalogues. A mother bulb is one composed of three or more portions, which will normally produce several blooms and can often be divided, if this is very carefully done. A double-nosed bulb has two, often three, flowering ‘noses’ enclosed in one outer skin. A round bulb has no offsets and is a satisfactory size for planting.
There is a great variation in size and form of narcissi, which include the trumpet varieties usually referred to as daffodils. The following are some reliable varieties.
Trumpet varieties: Beersheba, large pure white; Golden Harvest, very large golden yellow; King Alfred, sometimes known as the aristocrat of daffodils, large golden flower, with the trumpet frilled at the edge; Flower Carpet, another first-class all-yellow variety; Mrs R. 0. Backhouse, creamy-white petals, long narrow pearly-pink trumpet.
Large-cupped narcissi varieties: Carlton, clear soft yellow; Carbineer, yellow with orange cup; Fortune, bright yellow, deep orange cup; Flower Record, white with yellow cup; Sempre Avanti, creamy white with deep orange cup.
Of the Tazetta (Poetaz) varieties Geranium is most reliable, having several flowers on a stem, each with pure white petals and a geranium-red cup. The Poeticus narcissi have pure white petals and short, flat, brightly coloured cups or crowns. Of these Recurvus or Pheasant’s Eye is the best known and valued both for garden use and for cutting. Actaea has a yellow eye edged with scarlet. Jonquils are always popular not only because of the daintiness of their golden-yellow flowers but because of their delightful fragrance.
Apart from the larger, taller growing narcissi and daffodils there are a number of smaller species and varieties which are invaluable for brightening the, cheering up terraces and window-boxes and contributing to the show in an alpine house. They are also ideal for naturalising, flowering as they do from early March onwards.
Among the choicest of these are the following species growing from 2 to 7 in. high: Narcissus bulbocodium conspicuus, Yellow Hoop Petticoat, rich golden-yellow flowers, rush-like foliage, 6 in.; N. canaliculatus, three or four scented white flowers with golden yellow cup, 6 in.; Narcissus minimus, the smallest trumpet narcissus, golden yellow, 2 to 3 in.; Narcissus nanus, clear yellow trumpet, 4 in.; Narcissus triandrus albus, Angel’s Tears, multi-flowering, silvery white, 7 in. Species growing from 8 to 12 in. high include Narcissus. campernelli (odorus), single or double multi-flowering golden-yellow flowers similar to those of the jonquil, scented, 9 to 10 in.; Narcissus jonquilla, single, golden-yellow, fragrant flowers, 12 in.; Narcissus cyclamineus February Gold, yellow trumpet reflexed petals, 12 in.; N. W. P. Milner, sulphur-white trumpet, 8 in.
Species growing 14 to 15 in. high: Narcissus cyclamineus Peeping Tom, long, rich golden yellow trumpet, 15 in.; Narcissus jonquil/a Golden Perfection, golden-yellow flowers, 15 in.; Narcissus jonquilla Trevithian, grapefruit-yellow flowers, free flowering and sweetly scented, 15-in. stems; Narcissus triandrus Thalia, pure white clusters of flowers, 14 in.
All these miniatures should be planted from late August to the end of October. They can be placed in sun or partial shade in any goodwhich is well drained. No manure of any kind is needed. About 3 to 4 in. of soil should cover the bulbs, although the smaller miniatures need not be buried quite so deeply. Spacing is a matter of taste, but as narcissi are prolific, increasing very rapidly, 6 to 10 in. apart is a good guide.