Monday, April 13, 2009

Narcissus...a thing of beauty?

from Echo and Narcissus, John Williams Waterhouse

The tale of Narcissus and Echo varies from the Hellenic to the Roman to the Pausanias' version, but they all share in common the fact that Narcissus was consumed with his own beauty. It has been told, that Narcissus spurned all his suitors, including Echo, and eventually fell in love with his reflection in a pool. Realizing he could not act upon this love, he perished and where his body laid the Narcissus flower grew. It is said to this day that the Narcissus continues to gaze upon his reflection in the water...

It is no wonder why the Narcissus, or Daffodil as it is commonly called, is still such a beloved and popular flower today. Their bright golden flowers are one of the first signs of spring. If you have noticed as you make your way around the city, there are pockets of bright, cheery daffodils from Harlem all the way down to Battery City.

All daffodil species are native to the Mediterranean region, including Spain, Portugal, and North Africa. While there are around 60 species that easily hybridize, they have produced hundreds of cultivated varieties available today. For more information on Daffodils and their classifications, I suggest Daffodils for American Gardens, Brent and Becky Heath, Elliott and Clark Publishing, 1995; which is available at the HSNY Library.

I have chosen a handful of narcissi mainly for their intoxicating fragrance, but also because of their smaller size, which makes them perfect for containers as well as borders in smaller urban gardens. The smaller size of these daffodils makes them much less noticable than their top heavy cousins, as they begin to fade and die. They will quickly be hidden by the growth of surrounding vegatation as summer nears.

Narcissus canaliculatus
Little tazetta-type, sweetly fragrant flowers per stem; white petals and golden cups which prefer to be bake in the warm summer sun; forces like a Paper White; performs in the garden best in zones 6-10; 4"-6"; early-midseason.

Narcissus albus plenus odoratus
An old favorite Heirloom that has been moved to this division from division 13; lovely, all white, fragrant, gardenia-like double which performs best in cooler climates; 12"-14"; zones 3-7; very late spring

Narcissus 'Baby Moon'
Jonquilla; a golden yellow, multiflowered clone of species N. jonquilla, with grasslike foliage and nickel to quarter sized, sweetly scented flowers; variable in height; late spring; 4"-8".

Narcissus 'Grand Soleil d'Or'
Beautifully formed, golden yellow petals with an orange cup; takes longer to force than others and often produces fewer flowers, but its wonderful, delicate, sweet fragrance makes up for it! 12"-14".

Narcissus 'Kendron' American bred by Willis Wheeler and one that we sent to Holland many years ago to be increased; several vivid orange cups 'bleed' their color into the rich bronzy yellow, perfectly formed petals of this lusciously fragrant flower; 12"-15"; mid spring; 12/14cm bulbs.

Happy Spring everyone!

For more information on Daffodil varieties and where to order them please visit...

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