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Useful Info And History For The Home Gardener



DAFFODILS

Known since times immemorial on all continents except Antarctica, daffodils are very aesthetic, typically sweet fragranced flowers found in the wild in a variety of climates and environments. Botanically referred to as the Narcissus genus, their blooms, single or multiple on a stem, are composed of a trumpet and a symmetric, beautiful corolla of petals, which vary in number between varieties. There are single and double species, the latter developing richer corollas through an additional layer of petals. Species are classed according to their nature (original species or hybrids, also known as cultivars), their provenience, their size (miniature or regular size for instance), their sturdiness (delicate, hardy and everything in between) etc.

A few remarkable species are native to Britain, such as the Wild Daffodil or the Tenby Daffodil, whereas many other species have been brought from abroad and have naturalised over the centuries. To all these can be added the vast number of hybrids obtained overtime by British growers, some bearing their names as a tribute. Surprising colour combinations were obtained by hybridising species, particularly during the 19th Century, as the Victorian era was a time of ceaseless experimentation and horticultural achievements. Some hybrids were extremely popular for a number of decades and were later abandoned, and are referred to as historical daffodils ; they are still available today for those seeking to restore their status. Crossbreeds have been achieved by crossing different daffodil species, daffodils and other plant species and resulting hybrids as well, until remarkable results were achieved.

Most original species and hybrids are suitable for naturalisation in any part of Britain and usually grow freely, requiring low maintenance if at all. They differ in terms of optimal growing conditions, as some prefer full sunlight exposure, whereas others grow better in partial shade. Soil preference varies as well, although most species are known to thrive in well-drained soils which provide sufficient moisture during the growing season. The earliest flowering daffodils bloom in February, whereas the last to flower don’t develop their blossoms until August and September. Most daffodils however flower in spring.

Naturalisation is typically achieved by planting bulbs, which for the vast majority of species should be carried out in autumn. Certain species are known to spread naturally and with great ease, creating lovely patches overtime. Daffodils are suitable for many landscaping arrangements, such as borders, rock gardens or growing freely on patches of land. Moreover, certain varieties are suitable for growing in pots or flower beds and even for forcing indoors – which usually applies to miniature species. Some varieties are also known to last well as cut flowers, which makes them perfect for cut flower arrangements.

There are many reasons why daffodils have remained a favourite category for amateur or dedicated growers for so many centuries – they are easy to grow, typically hardy, perennial and will spread on their own, naturally re-emerging year after year in greater numbers. They are eye-catching with their striking colour combinations, from pure white and bright yellow to cream and even orange and pink. In addition to this, their scents are among the sweetest and most appreciated floral fragrances in existence.

DAFFODIL SPECIES

Narcissus minor

Origin: France, Spain

Flowering: February, March

Narcissus minor is one of the species flowering in early spring, in the months of February and March. Although it has adapted well to the British climate, it originates from sunnier and dryer parts of Europe, such as Spain and the southern part of France, where the climate is mostly semi-arid, which is why it thrives in conditions of reduced humidity. Its average height ranges between four and six inches, while the colour of its trumpet and petals is a bright and delightful golden yellow. Due to its miniature size, it is particularly suitable for rock gardens and indoor growing.

Narcissus pumilus

Origin: The Pyrenees

Flowering: March, April

Historically, it is believed to be among the first species in existence, and in terms of appearance it stands out through its intense yellow petals and trumpet, resembling the wild daffodil found all over Britain in the wild. However it is more modest in terms of height, whilst its stem is leafless, as it only features two basal leaves. The small size of this species makes it perfect for rock gardens, where it grows in any type of shade, any type of soil and various levels of humidity, therefore being fairly low maintenance. It seems to have adapted well to the British climate and abounds in many areas of the country.

Jonquil - Narcissus jonquilla

Origin: Unknown

Flowering: April

Among the species flowering later in the season, jonquils are elegant, sweet-scented plants with multiple flowers on each stem, usually a minimum of five. Their colour is usually golden yellow; there are also many hybrids of this plant, equally appreciated throughout the world . The bulbs are planted in autumn, with a spacing of five to six inches, preferably in a well drained area (regardless of shading) and the blossoming lasts around four weeks.

Narcissus moschatus

Origin: The Iberian Peninsula

Flowering: March, April

This white petal species reaches a height of eight inches and has a long history in this country, being attested back in the 17th century. It is renowned for its resilience as its stems are strong and resistant in challenging weather, therefore the flower thrives in Britain’s oceanic climate. It is easily recognised as one of the most popular and widely grown white daffodils. Its most successfully grown in a well drained patch of soil, preferably rich in humus.

Pheasants Eye - Narcissus poeticus recurvus

Origin: Central Europe

Flowering: April, May

Prominent on central European plains and known as one of the earliest daffodil species, distinctive through its green cup and cherry-coloured rim, complete with long white petals. It has a distinctive scent by which it is easily recognisable and is optimal for naturalising in grass. It is also known for its resilient stem.

Double White - Narcissus poeticus recurvus flore pleno

Origin: Southern Europe

Flowering: Late May

Very similar to the Pheasants Eye daffodil, this species stands out through its double petals, which give it a fuller appearance. In terms of flowering, it blooms late in the season, past the longevity of other daffodil species. It is also known for its strong perfume, which is unmistakable and has been chemically reproduced by many perfume manufacturers overtime.

Campernelle - Narcissus x odorus

Origin: The Mediterranean region

Flowering: Late April

A jonquil and wild daffodil hybrid, it has been grown for a minimum of four centuries. Its flowers boast a golden yellow and its height ranges between ten and twelve inches, generating a cluster of two or four flowers, whilst its perfume is almost identical to that of jonquils. It is often grown in gardens yet can also be found in the wild, as well as on green patches across urban areas.

Narcissus x odorus plenus or Narcissus rugulosus flore pleno

Origin: The Mediterranean region

Flowering: Late April

A variation of the Campernelle species, only showing two layers of petals, it reaches a height of twelve inches and spreads a strong, distinctive perfume. Its rich golden yellow flowers are highly aesthetic due to their evenness. Akin to the single Campernelle, the blooming lasts for approximately six weeks; they are both easily grown, resilient and low maintenance.

Narcissus tazetta odoratus

Origin: France

Flowering: March

This species has been grown since the beginning of the previous century and is renowned for its resistance to harsh climates, as well as its petite size. With six flowers growing on each stem, its petals are white whilst its cup is golden yellow. In addition to its tidy appearance, it is known for the strong enchanting scent it diffuses, a trait which also reflects in its name.

Golden Bells / The Hoop Petticoat Daffodil - Narcissus bulbocodium

Origin: The Iberian Peninsula, North-western Africa

Flowering: February, March

The name of this species is a suitable description of its appearance as it resembles a bell and is deemed a very aesthetic addition to any area. However, it has been found to be quite frail to be grown outdoors in Britain due to harsh weather conditions. What is remarkable about it is that is has been awarded an AGM (Award of Garden Merit) by the Royal Horticultural Society, and therefore, although it is difficult to cultivate than other species, it is highly sought after. Flowers can last up to three weeks.

HISTORICAL DAFFODILS

Throughout history, daffodils have been the object of admiration of many artists, particularly poets, as well as a source of inspiration for folklore, generating a number of legends. In addition to this, akin to numerous other plant species, they have been the object of horticultural experimentations and countless hybrids have been obtained through this process. Mainly grown during the 19th or early 20th Century by crossing different species, the species described below are believed to be of utmost elegance and charm, although for many decades they have been forgotten in favour of ever newer varieties. Some bear the name of their growers, generally remarkable names in the history of horticulture, who left behind a rich legacy of plant cultivation and crossing.

Narcissus telamonius plenus

Origin: Hybrid

Flowering: March

This variety is similar to a number of British and Dutch species and is also the double form of Narcissus pseudonarcissus, featuring a second layer of petals. Its average height ranges between eight and twelve inches. The distinctive feature of those encountered in the wild across Britain is the green hue of its petals, which is sometimes observable. In 1978, it was presented with an AMP by the Royal Horticultural Society, which is an award for merit and specifies that the plant is optimal for growing in pots or bowls.

Narcissus Rip Van Winkle

Origin: Ireland

Flowering: February, March

Grown since Victorian times, Narcissus Rip Van Winkle is one of the first daffodil species to bloom, as its flowers open at the end of February and last until April. First attested around 1884, it is a small plant producing a rich golden flower, and undoubtedly, its miniature size makes it preferred for a variety of settings. A double variation of Narcissus pumilus, it reaches an average of eight inches and its petals are greenish yellow.

Narcissus Mrs Langtry

Origin: Hybrid

Flowering: March, April

This species was intensely grown here in the 19th Century, being first brought sometime before 1869. Its name bears a historical significance as, even with the spelling alteration, it was inspired by Lily Langtree, the courtesan of King Edward VII. Besides a dainty look , with bowing white flowers and slightly twisted petals, the species is known for its resilience to harsh weather, which makes it ideal for growing in a variety of landscapes.

Narcissus White Lady

Origin: Hybrid

Flowering: April

As the name suggests, the petals of this variety are silky white, whilst its cup is lemon yellow. Its history in this country goes back to the end of the 19th Century. It was first grown by the Reverend G H Engleheart and in 1898 it was already popular, as it was distinguished with an AGM award, which propelled it higher among growers’ preferences, a status it maintained for many years, especially during the Victorian era, until its later decline. One of the taller species, it blooms in mid season and reaches up to 18 inches in height.

Narcissus Mrs RO Backhouse

Origin: Hybrid

Flowering: April

Known as the oldest pink daffodil grown in this country, with ivory petals and a rosy trumpet, it was first grown by Henry Backhouse and named after his wife. It is also one of the taller varieties to be grown at the time, reaching 14 inches in height. It suits clay based soils yet sandy ones as well; it grows well in different levels of sunlight exposure and generally requires low maintenance.

Narcissus Little Witch

Origin: Hybrid

Flowering: March, April

First bread during the first half of the 20th Century by Mrs RO Backhouse, it was attested in 1921, although it is thought to have been grown for a few years already. It is actually a hybrid between a daffodil and a cyclamineus, with rosy petals and a slightly darker cup. Its name was inspired by the way its petals are blown back by the wind, somewhat resembling a witch’s hat. It grows in most soils which are drained over the year yet moist throughout he growing season.

Narcissus Princeps

Origin: Hybrid

Flowering: February, March

This delicate variety combines cream petals with a yellow trumpet and was once cultivated and sold in impressive numbers. Its intensive cultivation can be traced back to the 1830s, which makes it one of the first flowers to be mass grown for commercialisation. It is believed to have been found in the wild as it is basically a taller version of the wild daffodil. It blooms quite early in the season, February to March.

Narcissus Seagull

Origin: Hybrid

Flowering: April

First bred during the last decade of the 19th Century by Reverend G H Engleheart, who was notable for his achievements in this field, it had already been established in 1895. It takes its name from the bird it resembles in terms of colours, the herring gull, as it adjoins three colours – white, yellow and orange. One of the taller old varieties, it grows up to 14 inches.

Narcissus Firetail

Origin: Hybrid

Flowering: April, May

What strikes the eye about this variety and probably generated its name is the intense red-orange cup, surrounded by contrasting soft white petals. It was obtained from a daffodil hybrid previously bred by Mr Backhouse, named Narcissus Mrs C Bowley, and Narcissus Firetail itself was bread at the start of the 20th Century, sometime before 1910, by a grower named E M Crosfield. It blooms late in the season, April to May.

Narcissus W P Milner

Origin: Hybrid

Flowering: March, April

Grown by Henry Backhouse about a hundred years ago, this variety blooms in mid season and reaches nine inches on average.Its petals, which lean forward with a distinctive twist, are of a pale, straw-like yellow, whilst its trumpet is a sulphur yellow, occasionally featuring a greenish tone. However, in various materials the whole bloom is described as whitish, as the colour varies according to the light the plant is exposed to, a brighter one generating a lighter colour. It is known to develop well in patches which are humid during the spring season and dryer during the summer.

Narcissus Bath’s Flame

Origin: Hybrid

Flowering: April

Bred by Reverend Engleheart before 1913, this species combines two shades of yellow and one of orange, the latter decorating the rim. The yellow on its petals is softer than that of its cup, which is more intense. It has long been a valuable resource for the cut flower trade in Cornwall, as its stem is auspicious for picking and it preserves well after cutting.

Narcissus Sulphur Phoenix

Origin: Hybrid

Flowering: February, March

This particular variety is indeed one of the oldest as it was attested as early as the 1820s, known among other features for its sturdy structure, particularly resistant to strong winds. It combines two tones of yellow, lemon and butter, whereas its double blooms evocate a cluster of windswept feathers, which presumably lead to its name. Its average height ranges between 8 and 10 inches.

Narcissus Glowing Phoenix

Origin: Holland

Flowering: February, March

A double daffodil known in Holland since the 19th Century, it is a combination of an intensely orange cup and velvety white petals. It requires a certain amount of sheltering from strong winds, yet is very suitable for landscaping, such as borders and flower beds. It is also frequently used in cut flower arrangements.

Narcissus Stella

Origin: Hybrid

Flowering: February, March

Easily distinguished by its tall and sturdy stems, plants reaching 10 to 12 inches each, its name accurately depicts the shape of its flower, which resembles a star. The yellow of the petals pales in in intensity towards the tips, whilst the cup is of a deep golden yellow and the sheen distinctively softer, making the bloom a chromatic delight through this gently blended variation of colour tones. In Britain they are symbolic for the beginning of spring, as they bloom very early in the season.

Narcissus Hospodar

Origin: Hybrid

Flowering: March, April

Also shaped like a star, this variety harmoniously combines a silky orange cup with yellow petals. In terms of precise age, it was bred before 1914. It blooms in mid season. Another particularity, aside from its shape, is that its petals are resistant to sunlight and do not fade as a result of exposure. It naturalises well and is also suitable for various landscaping functions, as well as growing indoors.

Narcissus Lucifer

Origin: Hybrid

Flowering: March, April

Bred by Reverend Engleheart towards the end of the 19th century (before 1890, it is believed), this variety is tri-coloured, displaying a gradual blending of golden yellow and orange on its cup, and soft white petals, charmingly twisted . For quite some time its growing on a larger scale ceased; however it was rediscovered a few years ago in Wales and is started to rise again in popularity. In terms of sturdiness, this species is known as hardy and suitable for a variety of soils, humidity levels and climates. Also, it can reach 15 inches in height.

Narcissus Barrii Conspicuus

Origin: Hybrid

Flowering: April

The species can be dated back prior to 1869, which places it among the oldest daffodils to be grown. It was among those produced by the strong Victorian trend of plant breeding, which has resulted in many remarkable varieties. Modest in size, this variety undergoes a chromatic transformation as when flowers open their petals are deep yellow, only to turn sulphur yellow with the passing of time. There’s a touch of orange as well, on the cup rim. And although it appears to be very fragile, its structure allows it to successfully withstand unfriendly weather.

Canary Bird

Origin: Holland

Flowering: April, May

As the name suggests, this daffodil is strikingly coloured, with bright yellow petals and an intensely orange cup. It originates from Holland, where it was bred before 1913, and is actually a Tazetta and Poeticus hybrid, a mixture which boosts its resilience and also generates a distinctive perfume. A late season bloomer, it stands and thrives when most other daffodil species have already faded.

Narcissus Elvira

Origin: Holland

Flowering: April, May

This species is also classified as a Poetaz, meaning a Poeticus and Tazetta hybrid. Each steam produces multiple flowers with white petals, generating a strong and pleasant scent. Akin to other similar daffodils, it blooms late into the season.

Narcissus Pencrebar

Origin: Hybrid

Flowering: April

Previously known as Queen Anne’s Jonquil for a very long time, the double daffodil species takes its name from a Cornish location. The name change was due to its spectacular recovery in Pencrebar, as a single plant was found there and allowed for the restart of its cultivation. It is small in size and is deemed very suitable for naturalising as well as planting along borders or fences.

Narcissus Geranium

Origin: Hybrid

Flowering: March, April

A Tazetta and Poeticus hybrid, Narcissus Geranium produces an average of six small flowers on every stem, with sparkling white petals and bright orange cups. The flower dissipates a lovely scent which is bound to be noticed by anyone passing it by. This species has always been a favourite of many British growers.

Narcissus Scilly White

Origin: Hybrid

Flowering: April

One of the single coloured daffodil species, this variety resembles Paperwhite daffodils in terms of appearance, with pristine white, cups and petals, each stem generating multiple flowers. Unlike the above-mentioned variety it offers the advantage of being weather resistant and therefore suitable for outdoor growing, either potted or naturalised. In terms of breeding, Narcissus Scilly White is a Tazetta hybrid blooming in mid season. It is also known for its pleasant fragrance.

Narcissus Rose of May

Origin: Hybrid

Flowering: May

Raised before 1950, this double white daffodil variety has been a favourite of growers for many decades, due to its aesthetic qualities as well as its charming scent. Blooming late in the season, it resembles the classic Double White, differing in height however, as it is considerably shorter. Its structure makes it particularly resilient to the outdoors and thus ideal for naturalising.

Cyclamineus Hybrids

Probably the most surprising feature these cultivars bring to a garden consists of contrasting, usually striking colour combinations such as that of bright yellow and intense orange. Many species also develop backswept petals, which make them furthermore graceful. Normally, these hybrids blossom early in the season or in mod spring.

Narcissus February Gold

Origin: Hybrid

Flowering: February, March

Although expert opinions vary with regards to the chances of this perennial plant actually blooming in February, directly linking them to a mild winter, some state this usually occurs. Its bicolored flowers comprise a dark yellow trumpet and lighter petals, which are gracefully blown back by the spring breeze. In terms of height, it can reach 12 to 24 inches. Another notable detail is the AGM this daffodil has received from the Royal Horticultural Society for its qualities.

Narcissus Jack Snipe

Origin: Hybrid

Flowering: February, March

Blooming in early to mid spring, this variety has delicate white backswept petals and a yellow trumpet. It is optimal for naturalising as it requires low maintenance and rapidly spreads on its own, creating delightful sights with little effort on your part. It has also received an AGM in the past and is preferred by many growers for its appearance and easy spreading. In terms of requirements, its stands out through its soil preference as it thrives in moist, acidic soils, which is quite particular for a daffodil.

Narcissus Jenny

Origin: Hybrid

Flowering: March, April

With elongated lemon yellow trumpets, beige petals and bowing heads, this species flowers in mid season and transforms through a process of discolouration, its trumpet gradually becoming paler. It can reach up to 12 inches in height and prefers well-drained soils, provided that they are damp enough during the growing season. A hardy plant, it handles weather condition well and grows optimally when fully exposed to sunlight.

Narcissus Kaydee

Origin: Hybrid

Flowering: April

Another variety featuring backswept petals, this species displays an adjoining of crimson and white, its petals being white and its cup a lovely pink, blooming later in the season. It prefers well-drained soils, organically rich, and grows ideally in the sun yet in partial shade as well. It is also known for its resistance to draughts and pests, which is a common feature of daffodils.

Narcissus Snipe

Origin: Hybrid

Flowering: February, March

A double daffodil variety, it is purely white, delicate and small in size, yet ideal for naturalising, particularly in short grass, yet other outdoor landscaping arrangements as well, such as bushes. Narcissus Snipe blooms early in the season and although it once was very fashionable, today it is rather difficult to find on the market. It thrives in full sun yet also in partial shade and reaches up to 12 inches in height.

Narcissus Jetfire

Origin: Hybrid

Flowering: March, April

Easily noticed, this variety combines deep yellow petals and orange trumpets, an energising and joyful merger which explains its name. A hardy plant reaching up to 8 inches, it grows optimally in well-drained soils, preferably sandy. It is a favourite choice for naturalising in various settings such as open woodlands and borders, but flower beds as well.

Jonquil Hybrids

Jonquils are known worldwide for their bright yellow corollas and strong fragrances, traits which most jonquil hybrids incorporate and are celebrated for as well. As general characteristics, most seem to grow well in full sun or partial shade; they are also particularly resistant to challenging weather conditions.

Narcissus Sweetness

Origin: Hybrid

Flowering: February, March

With rich golden yellow petals, this variety spreads a strong, charming fragrance, which has determined its name. It is encountered in gardens across Britain and has also proved its longevity as a cut flower. A heirloom species, it was attested in 1939 and has remained very appreciated since. It can reach 14 inches in height and, as a particularity, it is known for having a long life as a cut flower.

Narcissus Pipit

Origin: Hybrid

Flowering: March, April

This species is renowned for its outlandish chromatic transformation, which consists of its petals turning white an contrasting with the yellow trumpet, which is the opposite process of a regular daffodil transformation, leading to its branding as a ‘’reverse bicolour’’. A resilient plant, it releases a distinctive fragrance, mainly sweet yet with a touch of spice, and grows up to 12 inches in height.

Narcissus Sun Disc

Origin: Hybrid

Flower: April

A tiny daffodil bringing character to any garden, it boasts a flattened trumpet and small, coquette golden yellow petals. They are known for their resilience, which makes them ideal for naturalising, and also for their sweet scent, which fills the air around them. It can reach up to 6 inches and was bred by Alec Gray, a prolific cut flower grower from Cornwall.

Narcissus Trevithian

Origin: Hybrid

Flowering: March, April

Its strong fragrance reminiscent of jonquils, this classy daffodil is a favourite for growers, as it produces multiple delicate flowers per stem. Its blooms are a creamy yellow and are bound to stand out wherever they are planted. It was attested in 1927 as a heirloom variety and is very much in demand to this day, being perfect for naturalising yet flower bedding as well.

Narcissus Sugarbush

Origin: Hybrid

Flowering: March, April

Blooming in the middle of spring, this variety is tri-coloured, displaying a yellow trumpet with a white rim and yellowish petals which in time turn white. It was named as such due to its strong sweet smell, which makes it very sought after. One of the taller daffodil varieties, it can reach 30-35 cm in height. The plant grows well in containers yet also naturalised, has average watering needs and thrives in full sun as well as partial shade.

Narcissus Bell Song

Origin: Hybrid

Flowering: March, April

A very graceful variety, as the name suggests, it is evocative of bells, its blooms charmingly bowing forward. Bulbs generate multiple stems, usually two or three, and in turn each stem can produce on or two flowers, which makes the species dense and lovely for any patch of land. Moreover, it is one of the few daffodil species with a delicate pink cup. Its fragrance is also one of its strongpoints. The variety was bred by Grant Misch and blooms late in the season. Also, it has received an AGM in the past.

Triandrus Hybrids

Cultivars obtained through crossing triandrus and jonquil varieties are known for their distinctive, surprising appearances, which preserve and combine different characteristics of each species in a most unusual way. They are typically suitable for growing in restricted spaces such as flower beds and create idyllic views when naturalised.

Narcissus Thalia

Origin: Hybrid

Flowering: March, April

A white daffodil which flowers in mid season, this species strongly resembles a Triandrus in terms of shape and is short and very robust , making it ideal for naturalising. Its blooms, an average of three or four per stem, survive long into the season and preserve their fresh appearance. Its height ranges between 12 and 24 inches and it is said to create a splendid view when adjoined with ivy.

Narcissus Ice Wings

Origin: Hybrid

Flowering: March,April

The variety is easy to spot due to its elongated trumpets, whilst is petals and cup are pure white, which are presumably responsible for its name. Its appearance is distinctive as its white petals are conspicuously backswept. It reaches a maximum height of 12 inches and is suitable for picking, lasting for a long time as a cut flower.

Narcissus Hawera

Origin: New Zealand

Flowering: April, May

A triandrus and jonquil hybrid, this variety is delicate in appearance and at the same time very resistant to natural conditions, a trait it takes from its jonquil genes. Producing multiple blooms per stem, its flowers bow gracefully and their petals are blown back by the breeze. It flowers in mid season yet later as well, creating patches of bright yellow blooms. It dates from 1938 and grows up to 12 inches in height.