As the narcissus show yellow, some snowdrops are reaching their height, some faltering. ‘Mrs Thompson’ is a very interesting variety. Frankly I find it difficult to recognise the lady amongst other varieties as she varies so much. Here is one with six petals, though it may just as easily have three. I read that it is medium sized whilst discovering very large ones in our garden, providing a distinctive display. I remember walking around a lovely snowdrop garden at Goldsborough Hall, near Harrogate, just before I got the bug and, amongst all the wonders, one variety stood out. ‘Mrs Thompson’ is one of the cheapest varieties and one of the best.
‘Wandlebury Ring’ is a graceful beauty if you don’t expect a deep yellow, richly coloured yellow, illustrations from sellers notwithstanding. It’s not been that successful in clumping up for me and this year only one flowered. However hope reigns supreme. The variety is taller and more svelte than the admirable ‘Wendy’Gold’.
I purchased the hoop petticoat miniature daffodil from Anne Wright’s Dryad Nursery four or give years ago before she focused her sales on Ebay and the bidders drove prices to nerve wracking levels. I have not looked after some of my other purchases from that time, the grass like, tiny bulbs easily missed as the sessons change. Anne’s breeding of narcissus and snowdrops is legendary. ‘Lemon Flare’ is early and sweet. When I look back on my feature on hoop petticoats five years ago I feel sad I’ve lost some bulbs. I’m keeping an eye on Anne’s new varieties….
A Merry Christmas to one and all. I decided that my Christmas petticoat hoop is “Lemon Flare”, obtained from Anne Wright although the original hybridizer was the Ulsterman, Brian Duncan. He began hybridizing way back in 1964, concentrating rather more recently on miniatures. He registered the bulb in 2013 and “Lemon Flare” seems one of the most robust bulbocodium daffodils this year, This was photographed on Wednesday, the flowers having filled out nicely since I featured them earlier in the week. Growing these distinctly early flowering narcissus outdoors does show up their seemingly fragile nature in the gale force winds. I say “seemingly” for they do bounce back. “Lemon Flare” in particular does not lack for resilience. I’m sure in a normal winter they would not be so early, other varieties of snowdrop and daffodil being perhaps two weeks premature.
Taking photographs with my little compact was fun in the gales. The blessed things just would not keep still and in focus. Which reminds me that we have six grandchildren here this Christmas.
The 51% shareholder in the business has decreed that I cannot have an alpine house so I have to take my chances with the weather. This year Spring is busting out all over. Continuing to track some new dwarf narcissus, here are Narcissus “Limey Lass”, “Treble Chance”, “Lemon Flare”, and “Julia Jane”. There is little to differentiate them in colour save that, at its very earliest stage at least, “Lemon Flare” is a touch smaller and a deeper yellow, whereas “Julia Jane ” has a slightly larger face. “Limey Lass” has flowered “together” whereas the others have, in their first year, tended to flower separately.
Would I purchase all the different varieties again? No. I would go for the cheapest. But then it is their first year and plants are notoriously difficult to assess first time round. And even as they burst individually into flower, missing out on the grand collective display, for a modest outlay and minimal effort, the combination of varieties do brighten up my winter table for the Winter solstice.
Narcissus ‘Little Stuff’ is a cheerful, orange nosed miniature daffodil that is new to me this year. It was bred by the late New Zealander, Peter Ramsey. I can testify to its hardiness having twice survived being knocked off my shelving, first when the clay pot disintegrated in my hand and second due to my clumsiness. The corona truly is as richly coloured as the image. Beautiful. I wish I had bought more than three.
Narcissus bulbocodium ‘Early Bird’ is a miniature all right though somewhat larger than ‘Lemon Flare’ featured recently. I loved these hoop petticoats when I first spotted them at RHS Wisley’s alpine house. Perhaps my regard has waned slightly in favour of the miniature cyclamineus varieties – see below – though this particular variety looks vigorous to my eyes and I believe they look better in clumps, though I photographed the first to bloom. The miniature was bred in Worcestershire by the writer and breeder, Michael Jefferson-Brown.
So to those cyclamineus varieties. Smallest first, in fact one with the same diminutive frame as the species. Narcissus ‘Snipe’, not to be confused with ‘Jack Snipe’, has the same corona as Cyclamineus and the same reflexed petals except they are cream. A charmer. A smidgen larger than the species come to think. I’ll plant them side by side for next season.
I’ll conclude my parade of early miniature narcissus with one I’ve covered before. Half as big again as ‘Snipe’, which means tiny, is one I’ve featured before from Matt Bishop, he of the glorious if pricey snowdrops and encyclopedic knowledge of his subject. I doubt whether ‘Userpa’ is registered and certainly it was an impulse buy added to a snowdrop order but it has been dependable up until last year when it broke down into several grass like shoots, fleshing out this season to five or six flowering buds, of which this flower is in the vanguard. Theme: don’t give up. Plants are worth persevering with. For this year think ‘Green Tear’, last year a shoot, this year a thin shoot with a flower. Snowdrops and all plants sulk some years.
Normally I have little problem deciding which plant to feature first: I normally go with the more spectacular. On a brilliantly sunny if chilly morning there was no problem. Returning home this afternoon, another plant took my eye. So in no particular order …. Hepatica japonica Haato no Kingu is spectacular with a cluster of showy flowers startling in that they brave the cold without the unaffordable alpine house. I give more attention to hepaticas than any other plant. This one is sited in the most sheltered and sunny part of the garden during the cold months and I give it shade in summer as it needs moisture. In nature it would sit under trees, only obtaining direct sunlight in early spring before the leaves unfurl. Narcissus ‘Lemon Flare’ was photographed first thing this morning, delectable despite a light frosting. From grass-like shoots, hoop petticoats emerge in profusion if well grown. In the last few years I have become a fan and even my family notice them, not necessarily the case with all our plants. ‘Yes, Dad, did I tell you about the er yawn.’ (Our grandson takes another approach: ‘It was the ball’s fault.’)
Yesterday’s gales ripped the roofing felt off our large shed so my gardening tasks were set aside on a sunny, still day as I ripped the skin off my fingers and made the roof watertight again. Time however to photograph the various hoop petticoat narcissus that looked pretty in the sun on the display bench. Narcissus bulbocodium are surprisingly unused in our gardens. They are often described as being “unusual” though appear in all the catalogues, if not the garden centre shelves. Given good drainage they are reliable and do particularly well in pots. In 2015 they were flowering for Christmas Day. They have taken a little longer this season. The common name comes from their similarity to the Victorian whalebone hoop petticoat. I intend to plant a drift in the rockery this autumn as they should make quite a spectacle. Who knows, I may take a risk and attempt to naturalise them in the front lawn and go completely native, my sister-in-law having remarked that our garden is getting more like a woodland glade as each year passes. I took it as a great compliment. For now, I’ve limited myself to clay pots in which I have a number of varieties, many of which look remarkably similar to be honest.