A breath of spring

‘Conspicuus’ dating from 1869

Last week was rotten! Nothing but rain and grey skies. But we did have a break in the clouds Saturday night so temperatures could drop to freezing and chill the poor little battered blooms that dared to open. But it did mean a bright start to Sunday, and ideal opportunity to browse the daffs. While it is traditional to ‘tiptoe through the tulips’ it was a case of avoiding the mud – wellies are required footwear at the moment. But the Spring Equinox is upon us and things can only get better! And the daffs are cheerful.

‘Conpsicuus’ (which was, for most of its life ‘Barii Conspicuus’) has settled down well and the original seven bulbs have increased into a congested clump in just four years. I am very grateful of this and will divide and split the clump once the leaves die down. You need a lot of these because the flowers are slender and slightly nodding. Demure, despite their triumphant name. At their time of introduction they must have seemed the height of daffodil breeding but they look delicate compared with their descendants now. Petals have got bigger, broader and thicker. The hint of orange in the cup has been enriched and expanded and even extends into the petals in some varieties. But, lovely as all daffodils are, and the perfection of modern, ‘show’ daffodils is remarkable, I still love the ‘oldies’.

And they don’t get a lot older than ‘Van Sion’. I have mentioned this in the past and my affection for it dates back to my childhood because it grew in an abandoned garden that surrounded our house (a ‘condemned’ Victorian Vicarage – no we were nor squatters – nor clergy). It dates back to 1620 and is more properly called ‘Telemonius Plenus’. It is a lovely, scruffy old thing and quite compact in growth so does not get as flattened by inclement weather as the heavy flowers might suggest. The flower form can be variable and the ‘proper’ shape is where all the extra petals are confined within the trumpet. But often it splits and you get a rosette of irregular petals. There are various theories about why this happens but this year about 20% of the flowers are ‘good’ (the one at the back in the photo above).

‘Hot Lava’ (Nial Watson, 2013 2 O-O) is a large-cupped daffodil that attracts me like a bee (or a bear) to a honeypot. The petals are suffused with a pretty good orange, though the cup is deeper, and the flowers open nice and flat with beautifully rounded shape. The cup is tailored but not too ‘mean’. It is supposed to be sunproof but it does burn in sun and is better picked before it gets damaged, but then it is a show flower really.

‘Maria’ (2017 6 Y-O) is a garden daffodil and is a modern version of ‘Jetfire’. It is flawed, because, although it is early and bright and seems to grow and flower well, the orange trumpet burns dreadfully in hot sun. Even this spring the ‘sunny sides’ are damaged.

‘Orange Comet’ ( 2014 6W-YYO) is a striking cyclamineus hybrid. I am not sure what it is that I don’t like about this. It certainly grows quite well and the flowers open early and the trumpet does seem pretty sunproof for such a bright colour. The contrast of colours is striking. But there is something about the trumpet, that is wider at the base than the mouth, that makes it look a bit like a plumber’s spare part or maybe the orange rubber tubing that had to be worked onto the connector of a Bunsen burner in school chemistry lessons. I am being very uncharitable but it looks a bit constipated to me.

‘Orange Sunset’ (2014 1W-YYO) has similar colouring, though the trumpet is a bit paler, and this time it is a traditional trumpet daff with an elegantly frilly edge. The flowers are nicely held and it seems to be a good doer in the garden as would be expected of one of Karel van der Veek’s daffodils. It is fragrant too. Like many, the flowers do change colour as they age.

This is very true of ‘Sugar Dipped’ (2016 6W-Y) which is a cute and sturdy Cyclamineus hybrid that opens in two similar shades of yellow but the petals mature to white along with the crispy edges of the trumpet which look as if they are dipped in sugar. But when young the flowers are still pretty, if not quite so startling.

In the meantime, Mia has hated the weather as much as me and was content to watch the tame fox from the utility room window

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4 Comments on “A breath of spring”

  1. Paddy Tobin
    March 20, 2023 at 8:33 am #

    I love ‘Van Zion’, such age and still of interest.

    • thebikinggardener
      March 20, 2023 at 8:43 am #

      It is encouraging that it is still commercially available and I got it from a prepack in a garden centre.

  2. Jaye Marie and Anita Dawes
    March 20, 2023 at 11:41 am #

    I love daffodils, they’re so cheerful!

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