'Shrine of colour! Golden sweetness, Angel of the Spring that cries Other radiance to arise. Little poem of completeness From the mind of God, Who knows How to fashion sphere and rose.'
Hon. Eleanore Norton.
SCIENTISTS classify Narcissi in many divisions, subdivisions, as well as species, which enable the kinships, shapes, habits, etc., to be well understood, and the positions of new-comers clearly defined. But the amateur gardener need not trouble to learn all these terms, unless anxious to take up the culture of the Narcissus family as a special hobby. It will suffice to grow, and love, a few beauties belonging to the differing classes.
The first Narcissus thought of in Narcissus season is the Polyanthus, or Bunch-flowered, no doubt, which brings exquisite scent to cheer us during winter, exquisite petals to predict the advent of many more spring flowers. The gardener who brings the following to perfection, in beds, borders, pots, boxes or bowls, will have every reason to congratulate himself on an easy triumph. For culture is quite simple.
Maybe Daffodils and other Narcissi never look quite so lovely as when filling glades in shrubberies, yet- who can decide? The Poet's Narcissus is a dream when dotted liberally over a rock garden, when congregated in avenue-lines on either side of a broad gravel walk, when massed in window-boxes, when seen in wide rings in round beds.
Daffodils thrive under deciduous tall trees, are especially charming close by silver birches or almonds, and do not resent the close companionship of evergreen shrubs. They will even live and blossom, year after year, close to an ivied wall, seemingly uninjured by that 'poisonous' drip from ivy leaves that has murdered many millions of other flowers of countless families.
It is a pity that Jonquils are so neglected.
To begin with, Jonquil perfume is unique; enthusiasts know that there are degrees of merit even in that, though, for the scent of the double deep golds is richer than that of the older ordinary yellows, and the late Rugulosus, called an Improved Double Campernelle, smells like a common of golden gorse in July.
Then there are the rush-leaved little Jonquils, slender, with small star flowers, yet tall, that blossom in clusters. Jonquilla is the best, perhaps, but Odorus Campernelle must not be omitted from any good border of Narcissi. These can be cultivated in pots or bowls, too, and mildly forced, but no Narcissus should be subjected to more than 550 to 650 of heat: the earliness, so precious, is obtained more simply by placing the bulbs in soil or fibre, early, as already described. They can be fed, like Hyacinths, with weak liquid manure when flowers appear. The double varieties of the golden Jonquils are equally easy to cultivate.
Cyclamen-Flowered Daffodils, known also as Angels' Tears, are little gems mostly fit only for growing in pots, cold frames or semi-shady rockeries. The type plant is Narcissus Triandrus albus. Some peat in the soil is advisable. It should be planted from June to October, 3 inches deep, and about 7 inches apart, there to remain until seen to be deteriorating, which will not occur until the third or fourth year. A mulch of dry cow-manure and leaf-mould should be put round the plants each July. They are charming, set five bulbs in a six-inch pot, but must be grown in cold frames or unheated conservatories. I find the best treatment is to sink the pots up to the rims in a shady cinder-bed, that can be shielded from excessive rain, as soon as the flowers fade, and return them to frames or glasshouses, in July.
There are now hybrids - one, Queen of Spain, discovered in Spain, others produced by expert growers by crossing Narcissus Triandrus albus with various Daffodils - and these may be naturalized in grass under trees, or potted, or grown in peat-fibre, in bowls. They are creamy yellow or lemon, trumpet shaped, coming in pendant clusters, and are often called Cyclamen-flowered Daffodils; the actual Narcissus Cyclamineus is the tiny yellow Cyclamen Daffodil of Portugal.
Hoop Petticoat Daffodils, Narcissus Bulbocodium And Hybrids, grow but 6 inches high as a rule, can be cultivated like Angels' Tears, but do not need peat, and may be closer together. Of course the shady spots they inhabit must be properly drained, or the bulbs will rot and disappear.
The Chinese Sacred Lily is still a popular kind of Narcissus for indoor culture in bowls or tall vases of sea-shell, or sand, and water. The receptacle must be half-filled with the material, the bulb is laid on this and supported in place by a few pebbles, then water is floated on to just cover the shingle. This water has to be changed once a week, a tepid supply being given. The bowls stand anywhere in airy darkness until leaves begin, when they should be introduced by degrees to light. The great Gharm of the Sacred Lily is that it will blossom in about six weeks under this culture, but the bulbs exhaust themselves, so are useless afterwards.
Narcissi are propagated from offsets, of course, in which case those of the different varieties and species can be cultivated like their parents, but must not be expected to give blooms while juvenile; or they can mostly be relegated simply to reserve plots, or border portions, neither too shady nor too sunny, too damp nor too dry, there to develop without further attention except the being kept clear from weeds.
The propagation of Narcissi from seed is a process requiring patience. As a noted bulb merchant wrote, in 1904: 'If any lovers of these flowers wish to try to raise seedlings, let me remind them that it takes from four to seven years to get a Narcissus to bloom from seed, and a further period of two or three years before it is seen in its true character. ... If they do succeed in raising anything better than is already in commerce, and grow it on carefully for eight or ten years, they would have little or no trouble to get from œ100 to œ250 for the stock, or to dispose of the bulbs at œ5 to œ10 each.'