Narcissus ‘Spoirot’ Division 10: Bulbocodium hybrids

 I love the hoop narcissus though I’ve lost a few tiny varieties over the years. ‘Spoirot’ is very attractive and very reliable. Definition first: usually one flower to a stem; perianth segments insignificant compared with the dominant corona; anthers dorsifixed (ie attached more or less centrally to the filament); filament and style usually curved. In summary, dispense with the petals, concentrate on the cup. To illustrate the form, I’ve chosen ‘Spoirot’, a miniature bred by Rob Barwick from Brook Bulb Farm in Tasmania,  Australia. A self confessed one man band, Rob is one of Australia’s leading hybridisers of narcissus. He was featured in an article for the American Daffodil Society in 2008, the relevant section follows a snippet from his 2000-2001 catalogue. Finally, I’ve just read a finely illustrated 2016 article from the Alpine Garden Society Victoria Group Narcissus the Dwarf Forms featuring some bulbs originating from Brook Bulb Farm. It has provided me with a shopping list too, particularly Narcissus Ben ‘Bler a cross between ‘Spoirot’ and another great hoop ‘Julia Jane’. Rob considers it his finest cross. I have the latter though I am unable to find ‘Ben ‘Blur’ here in the UK. I have to say it has been interesting finding out about these men and women whose dedication, interest, patience and knowledge have given us these superb varieties of narcissus.

Advertisement

Narcissus Actaea – Poeticus – Division 9

 Continuing my trail through the different divisions of daffodil, Narcissus Actaea is another ‘heirloom’ variety dating back to before 1919. It represents the poeticus, division 9. Perhaps the most ancient of daffodils, this may be the variety that Persephone was picking when Hades abducted and stole her away to the underworld. From the official description: ‘usually one flower to a stem; perianth segments pure white; corona very short or disc-shaped, usually with a green and/or yellow centre and a red rim, but sometimes of a single colour; flowers usually fragrant’. Actaea fulfills all the features of its division with an emphasis on the fragrance. It has been a top performer in our garden for years. 

Narcissus ‘Peeping Tom’ – Cyclamineus, Division 6

Daffodils are classified into thirteen different divisions. I don’t have an example of all of them but I’ll work my way through a few in the next few weeks. Division 6 today, the cyclamineus. Typically miniature with swept back, reflexed petals and a very straight trumpet. The name is easy: they resemble cyclamen in shape. ‘Peeping Tom’ is a good example and very useful in our garden as it looks fabulous and increases readily. Plant and forget. I never intended it but the narcissii I have featured lately have been older varieties, this one going back to pre-1946, bred in Cornwall by Percival D Williams who died in 1935. Percival was one of the great plant breeders. ‘Carlton’, the world’s best selling daffodil bulb was one of his hybrids. Until the 2nd World War when the daffodil fields were grubbed up in favour of food crops, Cornwall was the centre of the daffodil cultivation shipping out bulbs right around the world. Thousands of his seedlings were tested in the Netherlands and they have taken on the mantle of world leaders in the industry at Cornwall’s expense. We’ve never recovered our ascendancy though ‘Peeping Tom’ has certainly stood the test of time. I have included a photograph of the great man taken from an interesting 2018 pamphlet from daffilibrary.org.

Miniature Narcissus ‘Flomay’

 

One of the top breeders of daffodils was Alec Gray, 1895-1986. He brought us ‘Tête-à-Tête’ for example, the greatest success of any bulb. ‘Flomay’ was named after his wife. Now you only name something after your wife if it is special and it is. Photographed here on 1st April ‘Flomay’ is a fabulous miniature, looking great in a pot. It is very slow to increase. Here’s Alec’s own description in his 1960 catalogue. I’m waiting for that pinkish edge to develop.

Narcissus ‘Kiwi Magic’

 There are thousands of narcissus varieties. However ‘Kiwi Magic’ is rather special, an enchanting mix of yellow and cream, a ruffle rather than trumpet. Were a confectioner or dress designer to conjure up a little something … Introduced in 1989 the bulb was one of the finest raised by the small business, Koanga Daffodils, based in Hamilton, New Zealand. Indeed, I have the description from their final ever catalogue for 2007-2008. 

‘A stunning double that just keeps on winning! Twenty National premier blooms to its credit, including 2003, and Best Bloom at the Canberra Australasian Championship in 1994. A huge flower pure white with lemon inner segments that fade to milk white as it matures. Very evenly formed — a stand out amongst its peers.’

Interestingly, the most expensive bulb they sold was ‘Fencourt Jewel’ at $150, New Zealand currency. It is available in the UK, very much cheaper, and I’ll put it on the list for next year. So these lovely varieties don’t just happen. Thanks to Peter and Lesley Ramsay and Max and Kath Hamilton – Koanga.

Narcissus ‘Sabine Hay’ – The Future’s Orange

 One of the brightest and most unusual narcissus I grew for the first time last year was ‘Sabine Hay’. Its orange petals and darker cup are just startling. I planted it in a large terracotta pot in the shadiest section of the patio to preserve its colour. The bulb is no kid on the block having been bred in the 60s. To the best of my knowledge no other narcissus has this colouring. I planted some annuals in the same pot and, clearing them out before top dressing, the new shoots are already sprouting. The photograph was taken on the 28th March this year.

Narcissus ‘Lundy Light’

 I have grown to love narcissus varieties that are not freely available in the local garden centres. Each year I buy a few more. Next year promises to be a bumper one because I ordered in lockdown, early, and so my order was completely satisfied. The new ones are potted up, the old ones planted in the garden. But back to this spring: 10th April.  ‘Lundy Light’ is well named: a bright beacon of colour. The corona is a bright red. Frankly I don’t enter the competitions and the different classifications and categories of narcissii are not something I’ve taken heed of. If I was entering a pot of daffodils at a show this bright variety would be a contender. Vigorous and oh so cheerful.

Lilium ‘Lady Alice’ and the enemy

Our garden has been changed over the period of lockdown through Covid 19. Obviously I have had more time for the garden. Shrubs and indeed trees have been cut down to allow in even more light into what was a dark part of the garden. The spur was the removal by our neighbours of a row of towering leylandiis that sapped nutrients from the soil and light from the skies. So new plants can be introduced and it’s been a renaissance and an opportunity. Lilies are spectacular plants and I’m always discovering new varieties. ‘Lady Alice’ is new to me, a bulb grown from seed. But notice the red lily beetle. These pests devastate lilies and indeed fritillarias. If you track them down they drop to the soil. Still, it is a satisfying experience to crunch them between fingernails. However I confess I’ve resorted to insecticides and they work. A nice variety though without the strong perfume that is such a feature of lilies.

Plants in flower or just barking at Bodnant Gardens

Despite the snow there was plenty to see at Bodnant yesterday. In winter the colour of the bark is as important as the flowers. I did not get the name of the arbutus but in the dappled sunshine it looked a treat.


The flowers of this rhododendron dauricum are of course essential to its beauty.

Wintersweet, or more precisely Chimonanthus praecox, has an insignificant flower, making its impact with the sweetness of its perfume, carried well in the cold Welsh air.

This time the Acer griseum provides the colourful bark.

And the birch, Betula ermanii ‘Grayswood Hill’.

Dogwoods and ericas always give good value for money at this time of the year, the yellow, green and red stems reflecting the sunlight.

Rijnveldt’s Early Sensation was planted all over the extensive gardens and are truly one for the early garden.

 Last year I very nearly bought the hellebore, ‘Penny’s Pink’. This year I wish I had.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Feuerzauber’, and the warm brightness of  ‘Iwato’ through the sunlight.

Finally, as I draw an end to what amounts to a shopping list, a lovely fresh euphorbia, characias ‘Wulfenii’.

Narcissus ‘Jetfire’, ‘Velocity’ & ‘Canaliculatus’

Two stunning and very similar narcissus varieties  are the well known and widely available ‘Jetfire’ and the less well known ‘Velocity’.  Atrocious weather has not affected the former in any meaningful way. They have withstood wind, hail, snow and ice. And that was just yesterday. ‘Velocity’ has the slightly larger flower and is just as long lasting although later than ‘Jetfire’. Quite frankly the bright narcissus are needed to lift a dismal Spring. They have increased well.

Narcissus ‘Canaliculatus’ looks similar in size in the photographs but images can lie. It’s a tiny flower, dainty and pretty.