I thought I was going to be really clever today and post a photo of the wonderful narcissus ‘St Patrick’s Day’ which I planted in a new patch of grass last autumn. Unfortunately, as the buds appeared last week I was getting suspicious about whether this really was the bulb I thought I had planted and yesterday, as the first flowers opened, my doubts were confirmed and instead of being this wonderful, pale yellow daffodil, so obviously the child of ‘Ice Follies’ and ‘Binkie’ the blooms are of an ordinary, bright yellow, short-cupped daffodil.
I have mentioned the problem of plants not being true to name before and it is especially common with bulbs. I have also been toying with the idea of mentioning my disappointment with a certain bulb supplier for many months especially as almost all the dahlias I got from them last year were riddled with virus and the cannas were so badly affected that I discarded them as soon as they emerged – the dahlias went the same way at the end of the season. But having planted 100 daffodils in the grass and now got the wrong ones growing I am going to say ‘Parkers, hang your head in shame’. Having bought a lot of bulbs last autumn I now wait for each to open with trepidation and I do not have high hopes for colour-coordinated bulb displays. I am not sure what to do with the allium ‘Spider’ that have come up as they are all badly virused, with half the leaf area pale yellow.
But at least the ‘Geranium’ have grown and flowered true to name. I know this because some of the bulbs are not ‘Geranium’ at all but ‘Sir Winston Churchill’ (the double sport of ‘Geranium’. ‘Geranium’ is a fine narcissus with clusters of up to six fragrant flowers about 6cm wide with pure white tepals and a tangerine corona. It is a beautiful flower for cutting and I have planted some in the cutting garden where it is one of the latest to bloom. These flowers are on potted bulbs which, grown in gentle heat, are in flower a month before those outside. It is one of the Tazetta-type narcissus which include the popular ‘Paperwhite’ but it is hardier than most because it is a ‘poetaz’ which have N. poeticus in their ancestry which makes them more cold tolerant than true tazettas.
These narcissus are rather neglected in gardens but are well worth growing and especially good for cutting because of their vigour, often tall stems and their sweet fragrance. In addition to ‘Geranium’ (1930) and ‘Sir Winston Churchill’ (1966), some of the best include ‘Bright Spot’ (1993), ‘Cragford’ (1930), ‘Dan du Plessis’ (1996), ‘Martha Washington’ (1927), ‘Matador’ (1958) and ‘Scarlet Gem’ (1910).