Happy Centenary: ‘February Gold’

A week or more of high pressure has meant a calm, but decidedly dull, period with little warming sunshine. The garden has almost stalled with very little movement. The last snowdrops are hanging on but little new seems to be happening. But there are small changes. The red shoots of peonies are slowly emerging and daffodils, which seem determined to grow, whatever the temperature, are unfurling their buds in slow motion.

I like daffodils and now have in excess of 100 kinds in the garden. Most are planted in small clumps and they vary from the oldest I can find to the very newest, though I set a limit of £10 or so a bulb, so I don’t have the very latest which can cost many times that amount, though still paltry sums compared with snowdrops. Snowdrops are for lords, daffs are for paupers!

There are many, erratic, reasons why a daff finds its way into this garden and I can’t define what I like. Being a contrary sort of person I haven’t planted the ubiquitous ‘Carlton’ yet, though it is reliable and effective, nor ‘Ice Follies’ which I would rate as one of my favourites. Perhaps I have just ‘done it’, though I am pretty sure it will be planted eventually. And last autumn I planted ‘Popeye’ which resembles ‘Petit Four’ which I always say is one of the most ugly of all daffs. Why? Well I thought that perhaps I might change my mind if I got to know it better. And if it is ugly in the garden I will pick all the flowers and give them as a bunch to someone who might be amused by the novelty. A bunch of daffs is always welcome, especially if they are something a bit different.

Early daffs are always welcome and my row of tazetta daffs, with bunches of small, sweetly scented flowers, are starting to unfurl. Their fragrance, in the home, can be overwhelming, but occasional, small excesses are often satisfying.

Two clumps of ‘February Gold’ are also satisfying. This is not the earliest of daffodils, even in this garden where ‘Pumilus’ has been open for several weeks, ‘Maria’ is peaking and ‘Golden Spur’ is in full flood. But it lives up to its name better than my prunus ‘February Pink’ which rarely opens before April.

‘February Gold’ is a smart, upright, slender daff with crisp, deep yellow blooms with slender trumpets and reflexed petals that reflect its pollen parent: Narcissus cyclamineus.

‘February Gold’ was bred in The Netherlands by de Graaf and introduced (probably) in 1923 which makes it 100 years old. It is not especially common but is a popular variety among those who grow it and it achieved an RHS AGM in 1993. Despite its significance it has not been used much in breeding but it is notable that its pod parent is ‘Golden Spur’

‘Golden Spur’ is a yellow trumpet daff in the old style, with twisted petals. It has flowers that are perhaps ‘nothing special’ but a clump is effective in the garden and it increases and flowers really well. A bunch in the kitchen makes me very happy. It is of unknown parentage and was introduced in 1885.

The garden has not been all daffodils. The wallflowers in the raised bed are starting to open but, as I feared, none have double flowers. Grown from a packet that promised double flowers I suspected that there would be proportion of singles. Maybe some later plants will have double flowers. There is time.

The dull, dry, weather has been ideal for all the work in the garden. Beds have been dug and enlarged and some herbaceous plants needed moving or dividing – all part of the evolution of a garden.

I am not growing cardboard boxes; this is just to protect my Musa basjoo that I had to move to what I hope will be a better spot. A new addition, and the only hellebore I have planted this year, has been ‘Frostkiss Moondance’. This is one of those new, sterile, complex hybrids variously grouped as either ‘Rodney Davey Marbled Group’ or H. x iburgensis. The names of these are all a bit complex with series names and then names for the individual clones. It is very annoying but the plants themselves are superb and worth the money. So this has dark green leaves marbled with grey/silver and green and white flowers that age to pink. It is a good option if you like the traditional Christmas rose (H. niger) but struggle with it. The beautiful leaves are a bonus in summer.

It seems that the rather dull (both sunless and uninteresting) weather is about to change and an arctic blast is forecast. It looks as though it may not reach as far south as here but I am watching – not that I can do much about it. The plum ‘Lizzie’ that I mentioned a few weeks back, is now full of blossom. It is probably the most showy plant in the garden. It has not produced a plum yet and I was hoping that this mass of flowers would surely produce a few this year. If we miss the frosts and snow, just maybe. But I am hoping the flowers don’t get frosted.

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6 Comments on “Happy Centenary: ‘February Gold’”

  1. Paddy Tobin
    March 6, 2023 at 5:25 pm #

    I’m not so sure about snowdrops being simply for lords! Our introduction to a wider range of snowdrop varieties came about through the generosity of gardening friends rather than cashing in the family silver. Of course, the newer varieties are very expensive while the older, well-tested and more reliable varieties are seldom offered for sale as the return on labout etc from them is no match for that from the newer ones. Re daffodils: the smaller varieties seem to becoming more and more popular.

    • thebikinggardener
      March 6, 2023 at 5:46 pm #

      As I wrote that I felt that I was almost baiting you! I was referring to the high price of many snowdrops commercially and, of course, was not including the generosity of gardeners! Interestingly, picking up on your point about commercial snowdrop production it may be that Dutch growers are cottoning on to the demand and using their skills to grow a wider range to make them available at lower prices. Of course they won’t compete with the newest and rarest and specialist nurseries. But I see that Fluwel, where I get my daffs, will be selling ‘Beluga’, ‘Snow Fox’ and Polar Bear’. I don’t know these but they may be interesting and, at 80cents each seem a good mid-way – https://www.fluwel.com/products/galanthus-polar-bear?_pos=1&_psq=polar&_ss=e&_v=1.0

      • Paddy Tobin
        March 7, 2023 at 8:02 am #

        Yes, I’ve seen these for sale and seen regular mention of them in snowdrop forum online and, interesting, there is a snobbishness about them that they are too cheap to be of interest, an attitude that they can’t be good/desirable is they are that cheap! Marketing and general hype has a huge influence on which snowdrops people select. A selection of snowdrops with yellow markings has been very strongly marketed over the last few years and priced to be exclusive. I have never bought any but received two by way of exchange last winter and they are really disappointing; nothing special at all. I have better seedlings in the garden!

        • thebikinggardener
          March 7, 2023 at 8:30 am #

          I hate to say it but there is always the possibility of Dutch wholesalers selling things with the wrong names. And I do understand the desirability of acquiring something rare and exclusive so that collectors ignore something once it becomes easily available – it is all very complex! But if Dutch growers have selected a plant to bulk up it is presumably relatively easy to grow and thus probably, but not necessarily, a good garden plant. I don’t have many named snowdrops but I did get the ‘yellow’ ‘Spindlestone Surprise’ a few years ago (from Altamont) and it has, after being divided a few times, made a decent show this year but it is not very yellow! A nice thing though. Like ‘Lady Elphinstone’ (that I used to grow in other gardens) I think these yellows are a bit variable and take a while to settle down – or that is the excuse!

          • Paddy Tobin
            March 7, 2023 at 8:44 am #

            Yellow snowdrops have been miserable here this year and I put it down to it being a particularly dull February. They need good sunlight to become a good yellow. I grow a yellow form of G. plicatus which I found in the grounds of the Lyrath Hotel in Kilkenny – taken with permission! It has been a dull olive-green-yellow this year while some at the hotel were perfectly bright yellow. Obviously, there was more sunshine in Kilkenny than in Waterford. The level of marketing in snowdrops has become tiresome to me and many of the new introductions equally so. There are still some which I would like to grow.

            • thebikinggardener
              March 7, 2023 at 8:51 am #

              That is interesting about light levels affecting yellow snowdrops. My ‘spindlestones’ are in a bright spot that doesn’t get a lot of direct sun so maybe that is the issue. If it was side-by-side with others it would stand out. There are always more to collect!

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