This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
Mr. Editor - The Narcissus is a flower the cultivation of which is neglected more tnan it ought to be, and I am desirous of calling the attention of your readers to some of the best species. With this object I have sketched a few of them, and if you can find room for them in one of your numbers, before the fall, I doubt not, that amongst your numerous readers, many will try for once a few Narcissi, who have never grown them before; and I promise them a gratification if they do so, that will induce them to repeat the experiment.
In the sketch which I send, the flower with reflexed petals on the left hand of the group at top, is N. Cernuus. Immediately below it are three flowers of N. Jonquil 1 us, (the common Jonquil.) In the centre of the group is N. Albicans with its beautiful bell shaped cup, and below it N. Conspicuus. On the right hand of the sketch, is the magnificent N. Trewianus, more generally known by the gardener's name, "Bazeiman Major," (one of the polyanthus varieties,) and below it is the elegant N. Poeticus.
For culture in pots, the Polyanthus species is the most showy, and several of the best and most distinct are always to be met with in the annual catalogues of our seed stores; and of them, the varieties named Grand Monarch, Grand Primo Citronier, Soleil D'or, and the Bazelman Major, are the best worth cultivation. All these sorts do admirably well in pots. The bulbs of all the Polyanthus tribe of Narcissi, for pot culture, should be large, none less, and some exceeding in size a fine Hyacinth root. Although almost any soil will serve to grow them tolerably well, yet, of course, they are materially benefitted by one specially adapted to their nature.
I have grown them with uniform success in a compost, consisting of rich loam with an equal quantity of old hot-bed manure, and about a sixth in bulk of white, fine sand, mixed together. The pots in which they are grown should bear reference to the size of the bulbs. There should be at least an inch clear space between the diameter of the bulbs and the sides of the pot. In October or November (the earlier the better) plant the bulks in the above compost, taking care that it is well pressed down round the bulb, so as to have the latter firmly fixed in the pot. When all are potted, place the pots in a frame or in a cellar, and cover them over with any dry material, such as coal ashes, sand, or even loam, for I have used each with equal success; but the last named must not be used if your pots are in a situation exposed to wet, which they ought not to be. This covering should be of the depth of at least eight to twelve inches; because when the bulbs begin to put forth their roots, the force exerted by them is much greater than would be supposed possible by those unacquainted with the fact; and unless the superincumbent weight is considerable, the bulbs will be completely raised out of their pots by the reaction upon the bulb of the force exerted by the roots in pushing themselves through the soil.
The pots should remain in this situation for at least six weeks or two months, during which time they are in the most favorable condition they can be for forming roots; and they may be so left with advantage until it is wished to bring them forward into bloom. About the middle of December, this operation may commence, though to have a fine head of bloom, it is desirable to delay it a month longer, as the Narcissus will not bear such early forcing as will the Hyacinth; I mean to produce a proportionately good flower. Whenever it is determined to commence forcing, the pots must be taken from under their covering with care, (for the stem will have shot up from one to three or four inches, into the ashes or other covering,) the outsides of the pots washed with a sponge, and they may then he placed in a moderately warm hot-bed or in a green-house or parlor. I have grown them as fine in a room as ever I did in my green-house. Of course the period that will elapse between their removal from their first situation to the time of the expansion of their bloom will depend upon the degree of heat to which they are subjected.
The more gradually they are brought forward the finer will be the bloom, and in any event they should not be, for the first fortnight, in a higher temperature than from 55° to 60° Fahrenheit; which will be quite sufficient to bloom them in perfection; but if it be desired to hasten the bloom, the temperature may be increased after a fortnight or three weeks, gradually, by 10° or 15°, which will expedite their progress. After the pots are taken from under their first covering, they must be moderately watered occasionally, so as to keep the earth moist, but by no means to an extent which will render it of the consistence of wet mud, which I have sometimes found my lady friends think essential to the well doing of their bulbs. When the bloom buds have begun to expand, the quantity of water may be increased; this if accompanied by a slight increase also in temperature, for two or three days, will add to the size of the bloom.
The Polyanthus Narcissus also grows well on water, in Hyacinth glasses. Its treatment is precisely like the Hyacinth. When first placed in the glass, the water should not be allowed, to touch the bottom of the bulb, but the glass should be filled to within half an inch of it. The reason for this is, that if the bottom of the bulb is permitted to rest in the water, the outside coats of it become decomposed by saturation, and a slimy result is formed, which putrefies, and decay of the bulb is frequently the consequence. Until roots are protruded, it is best to place the glasses in a dark closet, as it Is found to be a law in vegetable physiology, that darkness is favorable to the formation of healthy roots, which are produced under such circumstances, also more speedily than when exposed to the influence of light.
There is another species of Narcissus which should always be grown, and which may generally be found in the early autumn, in the seed stores, before the other sorts arrive. It is called the Double Roman Narcissus; and another from the neighborhood of Mount Vesuvius, N. Papyraceus, (the paper white of the shops.) The Double Roman and the Paper White, will both bear forcing much better than the other kinds, their season of blooming in their natural habitat, being from one to two months earlier. I have for years grown this in my parlor only, and got it into bloom by the first week in January, and any one may do the same by simply following the plan I have given above, only that to have them in bloom thus early, they cannot be allowed more than a month or so to remain under ashes - for you can seldom buy the bulbs until the middle of October, and in the parlor where my family sit, (with a fire of course, at that time of year,) they take six weeks to bloom from the time they are brought in. No bulb can be got to bloom in anything like the same perfection, so early in the year as this.
Indeed, I have several times had them with some flowers open on the 25th December.
The scent of the Double Roman is strong, and to many very agreeable; but in odor all must yield the palm to the delicious Jonquil. The bulbs of the Jonquil are small, and three or four should be placed in a pot of the same size as is used for the larger varieties. The pot culture of the Jonquils is precisely the same.
No object amongst our early spring flowers, is more beautiful than the Narcissus, for the flower garden. Any of the varieties may be planted in the open border in the fall of the year; they should be placed deep enough in the ground for the bulbs to be covered four inches, and their situation should be a short distance from the edge of the border, with Crocus or Snowdrops, or some low growing plants in the foreground. It is not necessary to lid the bulbs every year, but once in three years they will require it, to separate the offsets. With regard to soil, they will thrive very well in any tolerably good garden ground; the richer it is, the larger and more numerous will be the flowers, and they will form a most interesting contrast to the Hyacinths, which should be planted alternately with them. The effect thus produced is more pleasing to the eye, than when they are placed separately in beds, as is sometimes done.
When out of bloom, (if grown in pots) the bulbs should be turned out, and planted in the garden in a newly dug piece of ground, placing them a foot apart every way; and in a situation where they get but little sun; and if well watered, daily, for two or three weeks, until the ends of the leaves begin to turn yellow, (from which time no more water must be given,) they will bloom again the following year. They should be taken up in the end of July, and then dried in the sun, with a sheet of paper or cloth thrown over them to prevent their drying too rapidly. I have grown the same bulbs with very tolerable success for several successive years.