Sunday, April 08, 2012

Narcissus 'Thalia' 

As much as those of us who love and grow bulbs may want it to be otherwise, for the majority of people spring flowering bulbs means one thing – daffodils.  My guess is that the daffodil probably accounts for nearly half of total bulb sales in the autumn. 
For us in the Wairarapa the daffodil has another special meaning as it is the floral symbol of Carterton, derived from the wonderful ‘Middle Run’ open days, dating back to the 1930s.  There the late Alfred Booth bred daffodils and spread his resulting seedlings and many other varieties he purchased through the paddocks at the front of his farm, creating a five hectare wonderland of yellow and white in the spring. 
Most of us are not privileged with that amount of land to dedicate to naturalising daffodils and have to settle for some clumps in parts of the garden.  If you have an extensive backyard, with perhaps a small orchard, you could consider establishing your own little naturalised area – just grab some bulbs of the hardiest varieties (usually sold as “farmers’ mix” or something similar) and broadcast them by hand, planting them where they land.
For myself, I have a bit of as thing for the smaller varieties, growing some in pots and containers so I can appreciate their subtle beauty, as well as scattering them about the garden – almost anywhere there is room.
One of my favourites is the pretty little ‘Jetfire’, often found in supermarkets in the middle of winter as it one that responds well to being forced into flower. The happy little flowers betray their origins in the cyclamen shaped Narcissus cyclamineus with their bright yellow backwards curving petals and a long orange cup.  The cup becomes deeper as the flower ages. This is a very reliable little plant and has steadily increased in our garden.
Another with reflexing petals is the prettily named ‘Tete-a-tete’ , a tiny variety with one to three very small delicately scented with long yellow cup and reflexed petals.  As the French name suggests, the flowers are borne in pairs facing each other.  This is another very reliable variety, being more elegant than ‘Jetfire’.
‘Rise and Shine’ is another pert little scented flower, with backwards curving white petals and small cups.  They open slightly orange then fade to yellow – another great garden plant.
My favourite of these little flowers is the wonderful white ‘Thalia’, a very old hybrid of the delightful Narcissus triandrus , the Spanish species sometimes called ‘Angel’s Tears.’  The flowers in the species (and this hybrid) hang down, softly suggesting sadness.  ‘Thalia’, nearly four hundred years old, is surely one of the loveliest of its hybrids with its pure white, pendulous flowers, two or three flowers on each stem.  I grow mine in a pot and delight in bringing them up onto the back porch where I can catch their wonderful sight and subtle scent each morning.

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