Narcissus ‘Creag Dubh’ and ‘River Queen’ – showy, large cupped and class

Narcissus ‘Creag Dubh’

The Worcestershire hybridiser John S.B. Lea registered this tall and vibrant daffodil in 1997, named after a favourite fishing lake in Scotland. If you require a glistening splash of colour you’ll not find a finer bulb.

Narcissus ‘River Queen’

The temptation is that newer is best. Of course, sometimes it takes a few years to cement certainty. So I’m pretty sure ‘River Queen’ is an exemplary white. Introduced in 1977 by the American hybridiser William Pannill who registered no less than 2010 varieties during his life. He died in 2014 and his orbituary is testament to a great life. As to the bulb, I bought three last year and have six today so it is vigorous and stands proudly.

Narcissus ‘Brooke Ager’

A former American Daffodil Society President, Jaydee Ager named this jewel of a daffodil after his daughter,Brooke, who died tragically young. It was registered in 1997. ‘Brooke Ager’ has been awarded the AGM and of the many narcissus varieties we have in the garden this has the most red corolla, startlingly so in fact. In division 2, large cupped, it is smaller than the previous two but just as lovely.

We have many varieties in flower at the moment and of the larger ones, these three are delights.

Birthday plant

A big birthday tomorrow and to prepare for it here’s a really small plant blown up by the magic lens. Fritillaria michailovskyi is a Turkish bulb I acquired last year with a number of other unusual varieties I’m looking forward to seeing bloom. This is the first to flower and we all need something beautiful for big birthdays, don’t we. I actually take a lot of trouble with the photographs for the blog, today lying down in mud for the perfect shot of a rare erythronium, a current obsession. Sadly all the muddy trousers in the world won’t make a duff plant with slug damaged petals look good. Luckily there are buds to open yet. For now admire this purple pendant with its yellow curved frills. Although I say it myself, a lovely photograph. Gardening certainly, photography too. All the fun of My Galanthus Garden blog. And with the restrictions on travel shortly to be lifted, we plan to visit some gorgeous gardens in the next few weeks. All to share ….

Fritillaria michailovskyi

Narcissus in flower today and recommended!

Let’s commence with a daffodil identified today after I posted on my Instagram account (#galanthus69) a lost label picture of a real beauty right by our front door. Narcissus ‘Ice Follies’ stands out from the crowd and is so vigorous and long lasting it dominates its prominent position. Thanks to Daffseek I discovered it’s an old variety going back before 1953 from Dutch growers and awarded the desirable AGM in 1993. It gradually turns a more pure white as it matures. I recommend this one.

Narcissus ‘Ice Follies’

‘Sunnyside Up’ does not appeal to everyone as the split-corona varieties are rather odd. There are some gaudy varieties around. This is not one. Bred by J. Gerritsen & Son, the Dutch growers, it also was awarded the AGM although I’m unable to give the date. I grow this in a very large pot with different varieties and, to be honest, I thought I’d lost it, until it, and its fellows, burst out confounding my doubts. A durable beauty. The Gerritsen family grew daffodil varieties from 1900 until 1980.

Narcissus ‘Sunnyside Up’

Narcissus ‘Rapture’ extends over one corner of the front garden and frankly I would not have planted it in such profusion if it was not a favourite. The long, frilled and splayed trumpet makes for a wonderful sight. Unfortunately the weeds seem to be germinating underneath. Plenty of work to do in the spring garden. Naturally it has the AGM and was hybridised by Grant E. Mitsch in 1976.

Narcissus ‘Rapture’

Two miniatures to finish off with in this listing of recommendations and they are gorgeous. ‘Hummingbird’ is well named for this is a tiny cyclamineus form and again from the prolific G.E. Mitsch, though a year earlier in 1975. We have it at the front of the border. Small in stature but sturdy. Hugely recommended. As is the final offering…

Narcissus ‘Hummingbird’

‘Beryl’ has shot out of a bunch of mass of aconite leaves to continue the Spring show. This is an old variety, registered before 1907 so again a hardy, tough beauty that belies it ‘miniature’ status because small does not mean fragile.

Narcissus ‘Beryl’

Narcissus ‘Little Surprise’, ‘Tiny Bubbles’, ‘Eaton Song’ and ‘Wild Carnival’

Northern Ireland’s Brian Duncan has introduced a stream of wonderful hybrids and ‘Little Surprise’ is wonderful with its blunt corona and swept back petals, together with a lovely pale yellow colouring. No idea why the ‘surprise’. Brian should be used to his wonders. The cyclamineus x species poeticus was introduced in 2015.

Narcissus ‘Eaton Song’

‘Eaton Song’ was bred by Virginia hybridiser, Harry I. Tuggle, Jr in 1989 although it was first noted in 1973. The outer petals are a lighter yellow than the trumpet. This is a dependable miniature. I’ve grown some in a pot and others at the front of a border.

Narcissus ‘Tiny Bubbles’

‘Tiny Bubbles’ is similar though the miniature has a deeper yellow and a rather longer corona. Most conspicuously, each stem possesses two or three flowers, a bonus although in some I find the blooms a tad squashed together. It is an introduction from Brent & Becky’s Bulbs in Virginia. Two Virginian introductions. A record for my blog..

Narcissus ‘Wild Carnival’

‘Wild Carnival’ was an introduction from the Dutch grower WF Leenen in 1982. This large cupped daffodil with its blistering orangle frilled corona is not subtle in its beauty. You wouldn’t want them surrounding Ullswater. As a burst of carnival colour you could not ask for more.

Hepaticas, named varieties, seeded varieties

Hepatica japonica ‘Hakurin’ self-seeded a few years ago much to my surprise when I spotted it as I was weeding the pots. I’d previously collected the ripe seed from several plants only to discover the seed tray waterlogged. I threw it out, probably rashly as there’s always hope. Luckily nature stepped in where nurture failed. Here then is the proof of the pudding, so to speak. Mother, daughter. Mother is semi-double, daughter single. Beauty is in the genes. Sadly there was only one seedling and, come to think, it may just have been there in the pot when I bought it from Edrom Nurseries.

Hepatica japonica ‘Hakurin’
Hepatica japonica seedling

Ground level miniatures

Miniature narcissus look best at eye level on the display table. This piece of advice is offered freely as I dirtied my knees from taking a photograph of a tiny daffodil planted with its fellows in the border. So this is ‘Camborne’, a lovely pale miniature that would look sensational if I was peering at it from eye level, focusing the camera to get the best shot, moving the pot a little for the best angle, perhaps bending my knee a tad, all to get that spontaneous, natural shot. As it is the trousers need to go to the wash.

Narcissus ‘Camborne’

Helleborus Harvington Double Purple looks a million dollars in photograph and garden. I bought it for £1 a few years ago from one of those bargain benches for sad plants, those that have passed their best or never achieved it. Advised by my wife not to bother, I took a chance, invested wisely, fed it, molly coddled it, gave it time, and it has repaid that investment richly. I’d recommend this variety.

Helleborus Harvington Double Purple

Talking about plants for nothing, how about species crocus that seed themselves freely in borders and lawn. Various shades of these exquisite gems are all over the garden and at some time I’ll have to consider the grass mower…. but not yet.

Self seeded Crocus tommasinianus

It’s the end of the road for the snowdrops as time waits for no man. One or two left. ‘The Whopper’ is an Irish snowdrop that doesn’t quite live up to its name, certainly not in its present pot. Unlike the miniature narcissus this deserves to be grown in the border where it can gain sustenance and live up to the billing.

Galanthus ‘The Whopper’

Narcissus burst into bloom: ‘Little Stuff’, bulbocodium ‘Early Bird’, ‘Snipe’ and ‘Userpa’

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 ‘Little Stuff’

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.

Narcissus bulbocodium ‘Early Bird’

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.

Narcissus ‘Snipe’

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.

Narcissus ‘Userpa’

Hellebores ‘Harvington x hybridus double purple’, ‘Ice n’ Roses Red’,‘Harvington Single Picotee’ & ‘Ice n’Roses Rose’

Hellebores are certainly features of the winter garden though here in Yorkshire we tend to see them open out towards the end of February – now! I love them. Over the years we’ve accumulated quite a few. So from this afternoon’s photographic safari here are three delights. Harvington x hybridus double purple is such a deep rich colour made all the more beautiful with its contrasting cream stamens. Like many hellebores it does have a tendency to droop however. Gorgeous though.

Harvington x hybridus double purple

Second up and a more upright variety, the outward facing German introduction, ‘Ice n’ Roses Red’. This vigorous plant has a rich claret colour and dominates the border, or at least it will in about two weeks as it fully opens out.

Helleborus ‘Ice n’ Roses Red’

Last up from today’s display is ‘Harvington picotee’, one of our oldest plants in the border. It has only just opened out but such is its beauty with purple veining and picotee margin, the camera came out.

Helleborus x hybridus ‘Harvington Single Picotee’

Finally, I’ll revisit a hellebore I featured a week or so ago as a seedling. I might, characteristically, have got this wrong. I do have many seedling hellebores although I received an incorrectly labelled plant last year from a nursery. The nurseryman had no idea of the variety, telling me he didn’t stock such a colour. So I received one for free and, on reflection, this is it rather than one of our seedlings. Its outward facing habit suggests it is from the ‘Ice n’Roses’ range that it was included in. It might be ‘Ice n’Roses Rose’. However it is not quite the same as images I have seen. But that’s what I’ll term it. I wouldn’t wish to claim a valuable introduction with which to earn the fortune I’ve always aspired to. And I’m just going to have to label my plants because my memory is not what it was. I think you will agree, whatever the name it is rather attractive and almost brash staring you in the eye.

Helleborus ‘Ice n’Roses Rose’

Warmth, New Snowdrops and Narcissus Cyclamineus

The UK is now enjoying milder if not necessarily sunny weather. Still, it has triggered an explosion of growth. So I’ll commence with the first of this season’s narcissus, the lovely diminutive Cyclamineus. I’ve not enjoyed undiluted joy with this joyful miniature. It requires a moist, sheltered position and my first batch was planted in a dry sunny spot and simply disappeared after their first and only flowering. Undaunted I tried again and the first flower appeared today. This is a gem or rather gems because there is a mass of buds.

Narcissus cyclamineus

Two rather similar snowdrops next. One is so rare I am unable to discover anything about it save it was purchased two years ago from a specialist and expert. It failed to flower last time round. ‘Wayfarer’ and the still rare ‘Prague Spring’ make a good contrast with the more conventional snowdrops in the garden, always a good thing when planting.

Galanthus ‘Wayfarer’
Galanthus ‘Prague Spring’

If the previous pair is rare, ‘Augustus’ is a well established variety named after the famous EA Bowles, the ‘A’ being for ‘Augustus’. The foliage is distinctive though it is the puckered appearance that stands out. This short, sturdy snowdrop is a must for the garden. It stands repetition: the cost of bulbs does not signify better quality.

Galanthus ‘Augustus’

Two more snowdrops before I publish. First is ‘Greenfields’ which I like very much. In a sense it is a very conventional snowdrop but the outer petals open out to reveal that very dark, inner marking to make the white all the more pristine. And a snowdrop I find superior to the famous ‘Grumpy ‘, Galanthus Big Eyes’ is a large, rounded plant that is prominent in the border even without that appealing face.

Galanthus ‘Greenfields’
Galanthus ‘Big Eyes’

Snowdrops in bloom

No theme for today’s post except to update my blog records for some of the snowdrops to open out in the sudden thaw as deepest winter literally changed overnight to spring like warmth and brightness. I’ll commence with perhaps the most rare plant in the garden. Looking very like ‘Walrus’, ‘Green Maid’ was considered lost. I’ve had it for years and until this year it hasn’t deigned to flower.

Galanthus ‘Green Maid’
Galanthus ‘S Arnott’
Galanthus ‘David Baker’
Galanthus ‘Magnet’

Three snowdrops next that have bulked up extraordinarily well over the years. ‘S. Arnott’ is just sensational really. Photographs fail to do justice to this plant. It is a big, shapely flower and indispensable in the February garden. Definitely in my top five. That little green dot on the tip of each outer petal of ‘David Baker’ may not seem so great in the image but, trust me, it catches the eye in situation. And ‘Magnet’, looking similar to ‘S Arnott’ but with a long, arching pedicel, captures every gasp of wind – a captivating sight.

Galanthus ‘Spindlestone Surprise’
Galanthus ‘Pat Mason’
Galanthus ‘Big Boy’

Two yellow snowdrops have prospered in the garden. ‘Spindlestone Surprise’ is fresh and easy, standing comparison with any more expensive, recent varieties. I’ll feature ‘Wendy’s Gold’, the other success, shortly. ‘Pat Mason’ is large and distinctive. The green tip and that sumptuous inner green, plus a rounded, shapely look. Wonderful. And finally, the genuine article, after several false starts. This is ‘Big Boy’. A wonder. I’m sorry but I confused this in earlier posts with ‘Louise Anne Bromley’ – the foliage looks the same but this is the more attractive plant.

Galanthus ‘Louise Anne Bromley’

‘Louise Anne Bromley’ is simply huge. A giantess!