August 24, 2006

Old School Daffs:The Miniature Winter-Blooming Narcissus

August is the time to plant these tiny precious and rarely seen Narcissus species.

I grow many of the bulbocodium types of Hoop Daffodils along with the other summer dormant bulbs in the greenhouse, they are the highlight of the late autumn and winter greenhouse with a bloom period that begins in October and ends in April with the latest of the species. By then, the outdoor narcissus take over and one can have narcissus in bloom for 8 months straight.

Quite rare, in the sense that you will really have to cleaver on-line to find these jems, the lesser of the miniature Narcissus are well known amongst alpine plant growers in England, and to rock gardeners in North America, who have a greenhouse or who live in a medeterranian climate. They demand the conditions that match thier native lands, from Spain and Portugal to Morrocco and Turkey - basically, once again, dry in the summer dormancy, and frost free and moist in fast draining soil in the winter.

This year I am attempting to grow more smaller narcissus, especially the species and hybrids in the sections of N. cyclamineus and N. triandrus. Both are and have been treasured as alpine house classics throught the nineteenth and early twentieth century by bulb collectors and alpine growers around the world. They remain absent in the trade, and can only be found a a very few of the best daffodil growers. both in containers and in he rock garden. A little pricy, or even alot pricy with some bulbs selling between $20 -$45.00 US, it takes an investment to fill a pot of twenty bulbs. I am going to start with 1-3 bulbs each, and see where that takes me. I will still be eating ramen noodles for a few weeks, surely!

A pot of Narcissus romiuxi in bloom last December.

I've become daffy about mini daffodils. In the past two weeks, I've joined the American daffodil Society, ordered most every book on the subject from Alibris.com (a great site for out of print books from all over the world) and I am smack in the middle of ordering mini daff's from the few, not even handful, of mail order nursuries who carry them like Nancy Wilson in the U.S and Paul Christian in the UK.

Uncleaned bulbs after a 'baking' in the summer greenhouse

Now, I should be more clear. Of course there are many other bulb nurseries, like Brent and Becky's bulbs, and others, many of which carry a selection of true miniature narcissus. The named varieties that you will find in most of the more respected catalogs are all the same. A few like the variety Xit and Clare, are harder to find as are the species N. rupicula and N. waterii, but a couple catalogs still carry them from time to time. Don't let this discourage you, al narcissus are great, and all of the miniatures are super and precious in the garden.

Remember, I'm a plant geek, and to those of you who are also plant geeks, we tend to look deeper. Way down to, say, what woudl the rarest narcissis be? What would be considered the most unusual. Many of you may be like me, and atend local meetings and specialty plant clubs during hte winter, all which have little contests where members bring treasures from thier greenhouses to compete against each other. Some of us grow a few pots to enter in the larger flower shows like the New England Flower Show or the Philadelphia Flower Show. So we look for the real unusual, it't what gives us goose bumps, to see a precious unusual species that is often not seen. Plain yellow daff's are stil nice. we are just numb when we view them.

Cleaned Narcissus obesus bulbs all ready for potting up in August

What I am particularly interested in, are very particular types of narcissus, that require special conditions, not difficultu really, but ones that must be grown in an alpine house throughout our cold, New England winter. Requiring bright sunlight, and cool temperatures along with bouyant air and fresh water. Granted, collecting these particular species is this is a subculture, if you will, of either Narcissiphiles or Alpinists, or maybe even both combined. Let me put it this way, it's not going to get me a date! These bulbs really can only be grown by those who either live in a more medeteranean climate like California, or who have an alpine house in the north. Since they require similar conditions as many of the South African bulbs that I grow, they are a perfect fit.

The best results come from crowded pots, the bulbs seem to like touching each other.

1 comment :

  1. Matt, It apears that you still have too much time on your hands.... I hope that you will have enough time for us to see you this fall at a few CSSM meetings! Keep up the great blog.....


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