Daffodils - Legends, Notes on Poison Quality, How to Grow Tips, And Design Tips
Daffodils are flowering like mad in my garden so in keeping with the
season, let me tell you of some research I've found about that
I won't bother to bore you with the old story of its species name
narcissus being named after the handsome Greek lad who was tricked into
looking at his own reflection in a pond and is - to the best of our
knowledge - still pining away at that pond. Or, if you like flower
legends, the lad eventually fell into the pond and was reborn as a
nodding yellow flower. Instead, I'll bore you with some other arcane
knowledge of this wonderful bulb.
Chickens & Daffodils
If you keep chickens, you may not want to bring daffodils into the
house as cut flowers. An old saying in Herfordshire U.K. says that if
you bring the flower inside when the hens are sitting, no chicks will
be born alive. A variant of this in Devon, says that the number of
goslings that will be hatched and reared is the same as the number of
daffodil flower stems that are brought into the house in the first
bouquet of the year. And while here in Ontario, we look for big, old
lilac bushes to indicate a pioneer house, in other parts of the world,
they look for daffodil colonies.
In the U.K., colonies often indicate an old religious site. Apparently
the bulbs were planted by the monastery inhabitants and after the
demise of the buildings, the plants continued to grow.
The daffodil family or narcissus, I note they're the same plant, is
poisonous so you won't be invited to eat these as you would some other
bulbs. I'm told by knowledgeable bulb historians that some Roman
soldiers used to carry several bulbs with them and if mortally wounded,
they'd chow down on the bulbs. The bulb would work its narcotic wonder
and the soldier would painlessly die. I have never tried to eat one but
am told you do not have to worry about your children eating them as
they are one of the vilest tasting bulbs around. This vile taste is
nature's way of protecting them from predators and us from predating
Now, a lesser-known epithet when applied to soldiery is to be called a
daffodil. Apparently this means that they are nice to look at but
yellow through and through. This term was apparently used in official
British correspondence during the second world war to refer to soldiers
the officials were blaming for the loss of Singapore. I'm told it
caused a bit of a diplomatic problem between the British and
Australians; the British saying it was the Australian daffodils that
lost Singapore and the Australians pointing out the real nature of the
problem was British leadership.
Daffodil 'Sir Winston Churchill'
Daffodils, all 1000 varieties of them, are one of the easiest and cold
hardiest of bulbs to grow. These guys grow in almost any condition or
soil and as long as you follow a few simple rules, you will have great
success with them. Simple rule number one: measure the length of the
bulb and plant it two to three times as deep as it is long. If it is
three inches long, plant the bulb so its top is six inches deep. If it
is a little fellow, one inch long - plant it two to three inches deep.
Simple rule number two says to try to give it as much sunlight as you
can but plant it anywhere other than the deep shade and plant the bulbs
3-5 inches apart. The bulb wants at least a half day of sunshine and if
you give it a shovel of compost every spring, it will thrive. Our third
guideline suggests watering the bulb in quite heavily after planting
and spreading some compost over the planting area. After that, merely
wait until spring and a glorious show of bright sunlight yellow. As a
general rule of thumb, do not water during the summer.
Early blooms look good when planted together with Forsythia,
Kaufmaniana tulips, while the later forms do well with Brunnera (a
wonderful blue flowered perennial) Columbines and mid season tulips. If
you want to grow some of the miniature daffodils, try planting them
with Phlox subulata, Hellebore, Sedums, Ajuga, and Pulsatilla vulgaris.
When you start filling your shopping cart, do remember the following
More is better. Yes, it is and if you plant them all
together in one mass bed, they will be spectacular. Plant the large
flowering ones close to the house where you'll see them and the single
flowering forms in large masses further away from the house. Remember
that the new daffodils come in a variety of colours - from traditional
yellows right through to whites, pinks and some absolutely stunning
coppery and bicolour shades.
So, stay away from reflecting ponds, watch what you do with the cut
flowers so you don't bother the chickens and do bother the geese. Don't
get into serious sword fights, don't eat the bulbs, and do plant some
daffodil bulbs. If you plant them, you, the chickens, and the flowers
will be fine.
Trust me on this one.
Daffodil 'Las Vegas'
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