From Our Newsletter: Daffodils
From America’s Expert Source for Heirloom Flower Bulbs
| Here’s a wealth of information about DAFFODILS from our email Gazette and past catalogs, starting with the most recently published. For other topics, please see our main Newsletter Archives page.|
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|You might also enjoy our full page of expert advice on “Daffodils for the South and Warm West”.|
Will the Real John Horsefield Please Stand Up?
We work hard to make sure our bulbs are right and our facts are straight. That’s why we were happy to get this email recently from Nick Ritchie of the UK:
Extra Bulbs? Jane Says Plant Easy Daffodil Baskets for Your Front Steps or Patio
When our good customer Jane Baldwin of zone-6a Moreland Hills, Ohio, found herself with surplus bulbs late one fall, she improvised an easy solution that ended up delighting her. “A couple of years ago,” she writes, “I got caught by early snow so I planted the last of my daffodils in baskets. It looked fabulous and I highly recommend this to anyone, even if you’re not in the same predicament. In fact, it’s how I’m planting most of the daffs I ordered from you this fall.
Silver Bells, Presbyterian Sisters, and Eudora Welty
The small white daffodil known as Silver Bells, Swan’s Neck, or Goose Neck has been a cherished favorite in Southern gardens for a very long time. Author Eudora Welty and her mother grew it in their Mississippi garden, and she wrote about it in her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Optimist’s Daughter, as Susan Haltom and Jane Roy Brown explain in their excellent One Writer’s Garden:
‘Carlton’ Blooms Happily in a Bowl of Pebbles, Too
Gardeners understand better than most people the joy of anticipation, so we figured July would be a good time to share with you this tip for winter bloom:
Getting Old Daffodils to Bloom Again: “Separation Did the Trick!”
In many parts of the country, daffodils bloom every spring in ditches, cow pastures, vacant lots, and other neglected areas where long-forgotten homes once stood. Dig a clump and you’ll often find a crowded mass of small, under-nourished bulbs with only a few that have managed to size up enough to bloom. In your own garden, the same thing can happen to long-established clumps, and the remedies in both cases are the same: fertilize, provide more sunlight, and when all else fails, dig and divide – as our friend Les Turner discovered:
How Can ‘Mrs. Langtry’ Be Older than Mrs. Langtry?
The lovely ‘Mrs. Langtry’ – aka ‘Lily Langtry’ – is one of the most popular Victorian daffodils, but its name is a bit of a puzzle, as our good customer Sarah Weinberg of Falls Church, Virginia, notes:
Two Old Daffodils Delight New Customer
After Donna Jarrow’s first bulbs from us bloomed in her zone-7, Palmyra, Virginia garden, she wrote us happily:
ADS Offers Rare 1930s Daffodil Yearbooks on CD
Fans of historic daffodils will be happy to hear that four rare volumes of The American Daffodil Year Book from 1935-1938 are now available on CD. The 300-plus pages of text include a wide variety of articles such as “In Praise of Old Daffodils,” “Daffodils in Texas,” “Naturalizing Narcissi,” and – our personal favorite – “A Daffodil Parade in Michigan.” Even better, the full 325 pages are completely searchable. That means if you want to find references to, say, ‘Argent’; or fragrance or daffodils for the South, just type those words into the search box and voila!
Narcissus Stamps to Celebrate Year of the Tiger
For centuries, cluster-flowered tazetta narcissus much like our ‘Grand Primo’ and ‘Avalanche’ have been an important part of New Year’s festivities in Asia. Their gold cups symbolize wealth, and if they bloom on New Year’s Day, it’s said you’ll have luck and prosperity throughout the year. To celebrate New Year’s Day for the year 4707 which is coming up February 14, the post office is issuing a bright red 44-cent stamp decorated with these traditional narcissus. Take a look! (Jan. 2010)
Breaking News: ‘Dreamlight’ Wins Daffodil Society’s Top Honor
The Wister Award is a lot like the Oscar for Lifetime Achievement, a rare honor that goes only to those who have proven their excellence over the long run. And this year’s winner is . . . ‘Dreamlight’! A favorite of savvy gardeners since 1934, this glamorous beauty has a flat, rippled cup of champagne-white ringed with apricot. (Unfortunately we’re sold out for this fall but you can order it for NEXT fall – at no increase in price – starting the day after Thanksgiving.) Also winning the Award this year were ‘Sun Disc’ (1946) and ‘Misty Glen’ (1976). For a list of all 29 previous honorees (including ‘Saint Keverne’ and ‘Sweetness’), go to daffodilusa.org/references/wister.html. (Nov. 2009)
Triumphing Over Adversity: Mighty ‘Carlton’
We have a saying here at Old House Gardens: “Bulbs want to grow.” By that we mean they’re amazingly resilient if you give them half a chance – as you’ll see in this story from our friend Kit Steinaway:
Capturing the Fragrance of Jonquils
Ken Druse does his best to capture one of history’s best-loved floral fragrances in this excerpt from his always interesting email newsletter, Real Dirt:
March 1, Wear a Daffodil (or Leek!) for St. David of Wales
While researching daffodil history, we stumbled upon this interesting bit at Wikipedia.com:
Daffodil Shows Start March 7, National Show in Chicago in April
For a heaping, soul-satisfying helping of daffodil beauty and diversity, make plans to visit an American Daffodil Society show this spring. Forty-two shows, free and open to the public, are scheduled all across the country, starting with the Texas and Northern California shows March 7-8 and ending with the show in West Boylston, MA, May 3-4. For a complete listing, see the “Events and Show Schedule” at daffodilusa.org/events/show.html.
Proof that Spring is Coming
For those of you shivering in the grip of Arctic cold, here’s a preview of what’s sure to reach us all before long: Spring, glorious, unstoppable spring.
“Tranquils” and Other Flower “Gifts from a Previous Century”
In this excerpt from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Kingsolver describes what is most likely Narcissus pseudonarcissus, the early yellow trumpet daffodil of the South – and reveals herself as a kindred spirit to heirloom-flower lovers everywhere:
Do Animals Eat Your Bulbs? Try These!
For a quick list of bulbs that animals rarely eat, click the “Animal Resistant” box at our easy Advanced Bulb Search.
That Was Then: Picking Daffodils for a Nickel
In a fascinating article titled “Daffodils, Pears, Melons, and More” in the spring 2007 issue of The Illinois Steward, Judith Joy writes:
Blue-Ribbon Winning Historic Daffodils
Congratulations to our good customer Raymond Rogers of North Brunswick, New Jersey, who writes:
Your Garden Memories: From New Mother to Retirement with Mrs. Austin’s Jonquils
Our good customer Frances Rogers of Bedford, Texas, writes:
DaffSeek.org Offers Thousands of Photos, Wants Yours
DaffSeek.org is a great place to see and learn about thousands of daffodils. Sponsored by the American Daffodil Society, this simple website includes some 18,000 varieties that visitors can search by name, type, date, color, bloom season, and other criteria. Enter "1914," for example, and you'll get a list of 54 introduced that year, with photos of 12 including the charming 'Daphne' which we'll be offering in our new catalog.
Ugly Little Buggers: Daffodil Bulb Fly
Deer-proof and rodent-proof, daffodils have only one pest that troubles them, the elusive daffodil bulb fly. And late spring is when it shows up in the garden. To learn more, visit our new web-page at oldhousegardens.com/DaffodilFly.asp . (April 2008)
Spring Starts with Stinky Narcissus
Spring has sprung for many of you (we’re jealous!), and your tazettas may already be blooming. These cluster-flowered narcissus include paperwhites which are often forced on pebbles for winter bloom. Some gardeners love their rich fragrance, and others can’t stand it.
Campernelles and Heaven
Known since colonial days as the “large jonquil,” Campernelle narcissus are memorably fragrant — as our good customer Jan Ayers of Plano, Texas, makes clear:
“Mardi Gras Lilies” Lead Spring’s Parade
“Mardi Gras lilies are nodding in the warm breeze,” Bill Finch wrote in the Mobile Press-Register February 2, giving a new name to a very old jonquil. “I can’t remember a Joe Cain Day when the Campernelle daffodils weren’t nodding in the wind — which is why they are our own special Mardi Gras lilies. As is the case throughout the South, the blooming of the Campernelles is a signal that spring has just begun.” (June 2007)
That’s Not a Weed, It’s a Historic Daffodil!
Last weekend our friend Russell Studebaker led his annual tour of historic daffodils that survive at old cemeteries and other relic sites in rural Oklahoma. He writes:
Pickled Paperwhites Stand Up Straighter
To prevent your paperwhites from getting tall and floppy, give them a good stiff drink. It’s true! Scientific testing by Professor Bill Miller of Cornell’s Flower Bulb Research Program confirmed that paperwhites grown in water with a 5% concentration of alcohol bloomed beautifully on stems one-third shorter than teetotaling paperwhites. Since most liquors are about 40% alcohol, that works out to 1 part booze to 7 parts water. Gin, vodka, whiskey, rum, and tequila all work well, but Miller cautions that, just as with humans, too much alcohol is disastrous. To read his entire entertaining report, click here. (Dec. 2006)
A Promising New Cure for Dementia: Daffodils
Daffodils and dementia are two topics close to our hearts here at OHG. So when a friend sent us an article titled “Scientists hope daffodil crop will help tackle dementia,” we knew we had to share it with you! For this fascinating story about Welsh farmers, modern medicine, and hope, go to www.guardian.co.uk/medicine/story/0,,1724358,00.html. (June 2006)
An Expert Says: For Tough Southern Daffs, Start with St. Keverne
Mississippi daffodil expert Ted Snazelle writing in the March 2006 edition of the American Daffodil Society’s Daffodil Journal had this advice for modern hybridizers:
Horace: Read the Poet, Plant the Daffodil
Many historic pheasant’s-eye or poet’s narcissus are named for poets, including our latest addition, ‘Horace’ [currently unavailable], from 1894. The roman poet Horace lived from 65-8 BCE and often celebrated rural pleasures in his work. Here’s a snippet from his Odes (2.11).
‘Little Darlings’ Offer “Heavenly” Perfume
Our good customer Emmy Morrison of Davidson, NC, writes:
Posh UK Magazine Spotlights Heirloom Daffs and Our Friend Josephine
The headline on the cover of the current Gardens Illustrated, the upscale British monthly, definitely caught our eye: “Heirloom Daffodils, Rescuing Forgotten Bulbs.” Inside, six pages are devoted to our good friend Josephine Dekker and her centuries-old farm in North Holland where she is collecting and propagating exactly the sort of daffodils we love.
Hot and Dry? Try These Daffodils!
When the American Daffodil Society met in Dallas a couple of years ago, our friend Phil Huey gave a talk on daffodils for public plantings. Varieties he recommended as thriving in warm climates even without irrigation included our Erlicheer, Grand Primo, and Trevithian, along with heirloom February Gold, Fortune, Golden Dawn, Ice Follies, and Peeping Tom, and modern Dik Dik, Eclat, High Note, Pink Declaration, Pipit, Quail, and White Magnolia. (Sept. 2005)
Ukraine Protects Valley of the Narcissus
Since the beginning of time, millions of wild pheasant’s-eye narcissus (close cousins to our N. poeticus recurvus and ‘Ornatus’) have been blooming every spring in a valley in Ukraine. As farming and other development encroached on this vast paradise, more and more of these richly fragrant flowers were plowed under or paved over. Eventually local conservationists mounted a “Save the Narcissus” campaign and now 643 acres are protected as part of a national park. We hear it’s an awesome sight in bloom, but if you go, be careful: the accumulated fragrance can be literally dizzying. For photos and more, visit www.wumag.kiev.ua/index2.php?param=pgs20051/104. (July 2005)
Daffodils for Florida, Arizona, and Other Hot Places
Many of our Southern friends have snapped up the new Daffodils in Florida book which is based on the life’s work of the late John Van Beck. John was a great friend of ours and of historic daffodils. He tested hundreds of varieties in zone 8b Tallahassee to discover those that did best in what he called the Spanish Moss Belt where modern, mainstream cultivars often fail. Here are ones John recommended to us before he died in 2001, with a few additions from the book itself. Most will thrive throughout the South.
Other Excellent Performers: Butter and Eggs (needs shade), Campernelle, Double Campernelle, Empress, Orange Phoenix [currently unavailable] , N. pseudonarcissus (Lent lily), Queen of the North (despite its name!), St. Keverne, and Van Sion.
Another challenging area for bulbs is the arid Southwest. Our friend Mary Peace Douglas who gardens in Tucson and Sonoita, Arizona, has been growing our bulbs since 1997. She reports great success with Avalanche, Conspicuus, Double Campernelle, Grand Primo, N. jonquilla Early Louisiana, and White Lady. If you’re in the Southwest, you might want to give some of these a try as well! (June 2005)
“Stunning” and “Profuse” in Mae’s California Garden
Our long-time customer Mae Hoag of Orinda, California, writes of a new favorite and two old friends that just keep going and going:
More on the Copeland Sisters and Their Daffodils
More of you responded to the Copeland family history in our last newsletter than to anything else we’ve ever published here. We’re glad you liked it!
Who Were Irene and Mary Copeland? A Daughter Tells Their Story
Two of the loveliest old double daffodils are ‘Irene Copeland’ and ‘Mary Copeland’. We knew they were named for the daughters of the man who bred them, but that’s about all we knew – till last spring when we got an email from Irene’s daughter. She was looking for bulbs of both daffodils to plant on Irene and Mary’s graves, but she couldn’t find true stock in England. Even though we don’t normally ship outside the US, for her we made an exception! In appreciation she sent us a short history of her mother and Auntie Mary along with a photo of them as teenagers. To enjoy both, click here. (May 2005)
Tour Spotlights Cherokee Daffodils in Oklahoma
Our good friend Russell Studebaker, garden writer for the Tulsa World, led a pilgrimage two weeks ago to explore heirloom daffodils in rural Oklahoma that may date back to the earliest days of Cherokee settlement and the notorious Trail of Tears. For Russell’s inspiring report and a few photos, visit oldhousegardens.com/russellstudebaker.asp. And then consider leading a similar tour of rediscovery in your own neighborhood! (March 2005)
The First Daffodils of Spring are Often . . . Easter Lilies?
Yes, “Easter lilies” is the traditional name many old gardeners give to Narcissus pseudonarcissus, the very old, very early-blooming trumpet daffodil that thrives from Cape Cod to Georgia and points west. Even in areas such as Piedmont, North Carolina where our friend Douglas Ruhren of the Daniel Stow Botanical Gardens says they usually bloom by Valentine’s Day, the Easter lilies name seems to have been more common than the traditional English name which we use, Lent lilies.
Daffodils in Florida: A Field Guide to the Costal South
Daffodils in Florida? You betcha! Self-published by our friends Linda and Sara Van Beck, this exciting new book is, as Scott says on the back cover of it, “a friendly, knowing guide” for gardeners in the Deep South, especially zones 8b-9a, who have been “disappointed by daffodil duds while longing for, and wondering about, the hosts of nameless daffodils thriving without care in old gardens and abandoned places.” The Van Becks are passionate amateurs whose advice and lists of recommended varieties are based on years of research in Florida gardens. This is no slick coffee-table book but a labor of love for everyone who “loves daffodils and the tough, gorgeous, traditional flowers of the South.” (Jan. 2005)
Daffodil Shows Start Soon; OHG Customers Won Big Last Year
Last spring, many of our customers won blue ribbons for “Best Historic Daffodil” at American Daffodil Society shows around the country. Congratulations to Glenda Brogoitti, Laura Anne Brooks, Jennifer Brown, Bonnie Campbell, Fred Fettig, Kirby Fong, Joe Hamm, Clay and Fran Higgins (winners at the National Show), Beth Holbrooke, John Lipscomb, Joy Mackinney, Becky Fox Matthews, Margaret Nichols, Nancy Pilipuf, Sandra Stewart (current ADS Historic Daffodils Committee chair), and Lissa Williamson!
Daffodil Rescue of 75,000 Bulbs Led by Eagle Scout
For years on a hillside in rural Pennsylvania, a colorful planting of daffodils in the shape of a big cross and the words “Welcome Spring” bloomed as a beloved local landmark. But recently the old farm was sold and the daffodils were about to be bulldozed. Happily, Eagle Scout Jeremy Corll organized a massive rescue project, moving some 75,000 bulbs down the road a bit to a hillside next to a local church. For the full inspiring story by our friend Doug Oster of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, or to buy some of the excess bulbs, go to www.post-gazette.com/pg/04228/360755.stm, follow the link to the church’s website, and then click on “Eagle Scout Project.” (Oct. 2004)
Daffodil Bulb Fly is Coming! Are You Ready?
If you see a “bee” buzzing loudly around your daffodils in late spring, there’s a good chance it’s a bulb fly, one of the very few pests that trouble daffodils. Our good customer Dona Townsend of Lebanon, Oregon, shares some unusual tips for combating it:
Mobile’s Bill Finch Lauds OHG and Daffodils for Zone 8/9
Bill is the environmental editor for the Mobile Press-Register, and after reading one of his articles you’ll probably wish he wrote for your local paper. Recently he wrote, “Let me remind you where you’re most likely to find the bulbs that grow well in our climate: Old House Gardens.” Then he listed the daffodils he has found most reliable in his zone 9 garden. His top three are ‘Campernelle’, ‘Carlton’, and ‘Grand Monarque’ [currently unavailable], and he also highly recommends ‘Trevithian’, ‘Sweetness’, Lent lily (N. pseudonarcissus), ‘Avalanche’, ‘Thalia’, and ‘Early Louisiana’ jonquil. (Dec. 2003)
First Blooms of Spring: Our Customers Write
Many thanks to everyone who shared stories of their first spring bloomers! Here are two about daffodils.
Who Is Mrs. Backhouse and Why Is She in My Garden – Twice?
Ever wonder about the people whose names grace our flowers? Sarah Elizabeth Backhouse (1857-1921), was a gifted hybridizer of daffodils and other bulbs. She lived at Sutton Court, near Hereford, England, and with her husband worked for years trying to develop a daffodil with a red trumpet. Their efforts resulted in many award-winning varieties, but their greatest achievement was the luscious, pink-cupped ‘Mrs. R.O. Backhouse’ daffodil of 1921. It’s still so well loved that it’s one of our perennial best-sellers. But that’s not all! Mrs. B. also bred crocus, snowdrops, colchicums, hyacinths, and lilies, including a lovely, pink-and-amber martagon named ‘Mrs. R.O. Backhouse’. (Feb. 2003)
Josephine Dekker, Daffodil Rescuer
Josephine Dekker is not your usual Dutch bulb farmer. I visited her this spring in the North Holland farmhouse that her great-grandfather built and where she lives with her 83-year-old mother (who doesn’t look a day over 63) and several friendly cats. The house looks huge under its tall pyramidal roof, but the back two-thirds is actually the barn—a traditional arrangement that dates back to the Middle Ages. The front third, with its antique paneling, lace curtains, and sleeping cupboards, seems like a very cozy museum.
In John Van Beck’s Memory, Plant Florida-Loving Daffodils
OHG and historic daffodils lost a great friend this past year with the passing of John Van Beck, founder of the Florida Daffodil Society. John was full of enthusiasm, humor, deep daffodil knowledge, and a maverick spirit. I’ll miss him a lot.
Jane and Henry: “Falling in Love with a Flower”
Jane Hearne of Johnson City, Tennessee, has joined the long list of customers who write us in praise of our true, Southern-heirloom Campernelle narcissus She writes:
Wordsworth’s “Daffodils” and the Pleasures of Memory
Though you can probably quote a line or two from William Wordsworth’s “Daffodils,” when was the last time you read the whole thing? Here’s your chance.
Grandma Says: Those Aren’t Daffodils, They’re Jonquils!
Our good customer Nancy Foster of Clemson, South Carolina, writes:
‘Albus Plenus Odoratus’: The “Gardenia-Flowered” Narcissus
Though the International Daffodil Register dates this double pheasant’s-eye to just 1861, forms indistinguishable from it were figured by Clusius in 1601 and Parkinson in 1629. Very beautiful and very fragrant, it’s can also be very demanding. The buds “blast” – fail to open— if the weather gets too hot, which easily happens as they bloom in latest spring.
On Daffodils and Ecstasy
Though some may say Louise Beebe Wilder gets a little carried away here in this excerpt from her 1916 classic, My Garden, many of you will know just how she feels. She writes:
For articles on other topics, see our main Newsletter Archives page.
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