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Narcissi and crocuses to get you feeling fab in Feb

Laura Warren
Laura

Never before has the blooming of spring bulbs been quite so lovingly embraced than after months of virtual house arrest with nothing but Harry and Megan to relieve the tedium.

So today we’re going to have a look at a few early species that might be brightening up your lives, although I must warn you that, not for the first time, I seem to be the only sister who knows what they’re talking about – Elaine, as usual is sidetracked by the classical declensions of their names, and Caroline freely admits that the only crocuses she’s ever bought were from B&Q labelled ‘purple’.

You can tell Elaine thought up this week’s title, we’re not allowed to call them daffodils – it has to be the Latin version narcissus, plural narcissi, (which obvs I had to interpret for Caroline).

Narcissus pseudonarcissus
The simple two-tone flowers of the wild daffodil have their own charm

But that does mean she’s actually going to love my first choice whose scientific name is Narcissus pseudonarcissus – (but, behind her back, you and I can call it the wild daffodil or Lent lily).

An ancient introduction from Spain and Portugal (sigh – we will get our holidays back one day…) the low-growing wild daffodil, with its simple two-tone flowers, glaucous grey leaves and easy-spreading habit fits easily into the wilder parts of the garden.

Or how about another wild untampered Iberian species Narcissus bulbocodium, the petticoat daffodil.

Narcissus bulbocodium
The delicate lemon coloured flowers of petticoat daffodil

Meanwhile crocuses, originating from Turkey (steady…) are also starting to make their presence felt.

Of the early ones, my favourites are the different cultivars of Crocus tommasinianus. They spread a little too enthusiastically to be totally welcome in a flower bed but will naturalise happily in a lawn and our feature picture this week is the cultivar ‘Twickle Purple’ flowering simultaneously with Hamemelis ‘Diane’.

I also like to have a few of the more intricately-coloured crocuses in pots on garden tables to admire them at closer quarters and last year’s favourite for this was Crocus ‘Orange Monarch’.

Crocus ‘Orange Monarch’
Crocus ‘Orange Monarch’ named after the orange and black colours of the monarch butterfly we used to see on our botanising trips to Madeira (aargh…!)
Elaine

Well, I’d be happy just to be able to nip across the channel to my beloved garden in Normandy ….and yes, it’s true that I may have dictated how we refer to these plants, but I am actually WAY out of my comfort zone on this one. My knowledge of the various merits of different Narcissus and Crocus varieties equals my understanding of quantum mechanics. It is always a joy to see sheets of glowing crocuses or waving daffodils in early spring, especially this year, but what variety they are is generally a mystery to me.

I agree with Laura though that the little native wild narcissi are enchantingly pretty growing in drifts. I expounded on the lesser appeal of the great big trumpet-flowered yellow varieties in an earlier blog on spring bulbs – link at the end. But I reckon any of them will hugely brighten your day after a long and difficult winter. Not for nothing are they named after the beautiful youth from Thespiae who rejected all romantic advances, in favour of dying while admiring his own gorgeous reflection in a pool of water………………………

Not sure what they are (‘Golden Ducat’?), but I like them………………….

This Narcissus is growing in groups in rough grass, but I’m not sure what it is. Having a double centre makes it less of a draw for early insects than another that I grow there – Narcissus ‘W P Milner’ which has more delicately simple pale flowers. But this one shines very cheeringly, and it even smells nice!

Crocuses give you goblets of saturated colour just when you need them…

I am ashamed to say that I’m just as ignorant about crocuses (the usual plural of Narcissus has an ‘-i’, the usual plural of Crocus has ‘-es’ – it’s a Latin/Ancient Greek thing, if you’re interested..) I love seeing glorious spreads of them as in our feature photo this week, but don’t ask me to name the variety. I would definitely defer to someone like our resident plantswoman Louise Sims on this subject; page 13 of her book (available in our shop) has a lovely piece on the Crocus tommasinianus that Laura likes.

Or perhaps I can get some tips from Caroline who has finally found a horticultural topic on which she is an expert?………..don’t hold your breath………..

Caroline

Er no…you can definitely breathe normally. If I did buy spring bulbs (which I don’t really because they simply self-destruct here somewhere between being planted and coming up), I would definitely fulfil Laura’s expectation and go to B & Q.

The thing is with crocuses (note the correct spelling of the plural, Laura) – mice and squirrels eat them when they’re below ground, while pheasants eat them above ground. If, miraculously they do manage to bloom, the first strong wind (and you won’t wait long here) sends their delicate petals into a soggy heap long before they contemplate setting seed. 

A bit of class here – the white daffy ‘Thalia’

Daffodils are much better value in my book. My posh friends are all into the white ones these days — ‘Thalia’ in particular. White is somehow classier than poster-paint yellow apparently, but I can’t see past the miniatures because a low centre of gravity is vitally important in my part of Scotland, and they look lovely in a pot amongst my gaudy primulas (yes sorry, also from B & Q), although I know they don’t like to dry out during their growing season – again not a problem in Scotland.

My tete-a-tete daffs – they have a stablemate hybrid called ‘Jetfire’ on which the all petals point backwards – uber cute!

Just look at my little battlers here in a bed I otherwise relinquished to the wind two years ago – on the point of blooming despite withstanding 50mph gusts. Fabulous, although their name ‘tete-a-tete’ sounds alarmingly out of step with the times!

NB Louise’s plant of the moment never flowers but still manages to brighten up her garden at this time of the year, click on the box below to find out what it is

More NB If you’d like a bit more gardening chitchat from the3growbags, please type your email address here and we’ll send you a new post every Saturday morning.

This is the link to our blog on early bulbs

By the3growbags

We're three sisters who love gardening, plants and even the science of horticulture but we're not all experts. We'd love everyone even remotely interested in their gardens to be part of our blogsite.

14 replies on “Narcissi and crocuses to get you feeling fab in Feb”

Another fun battle of the sisters. Crocuses – yes, but narcissi, the common garish yellow – nooooo except for the beautiful ‘petticoat’, tete-a-tete’ and the Caroline’s white ‘Thalia’ (name of a friend of mine down here in the west country). But, I would love to know the variety I found in a roadside shop in Cornwall. It was the size of a tete-a-tete but the most beautiful, almost translucent white petals with a delicate yellow trumpet. Anyone out there who knows this one?

Scott you’ve got Caroline here. Your heart may fall given my reputation but Im fresh from the triumph of identifying the plant circulated by my sisters on our WhatsApp group at about midnight last night (and a Friday night!). To say they were gobsmacked is an understatement so Im going to have a very good go at yours, armed with the latest edition of the RHS magazine which features miniature narcissi. Could it be N. ‘Snipe’? Apparently it originated from Wales (not TOO far from you?), and is pretty rare. I cant attach an image to a comment – but here is a link to a great-looking supplier https://www.shiptonbulbs.co.uk/product/narcissus-snipe/ Not sure if it’s the one you spotted, but it is rather lovely isn’t it? Maybe someone else could put us right? Thank you so much for your comment X

oh no, so sorry Caroline but thank you for trying. I’d love to post a photo – is it possible? The character is opened white petaled with a small soft yellow trumpet with a gentle green eye. She’s so beautiful and have never seen anything like her since ; (

‘Jenny’ is very beautiful and looks like she’s flying through the air, whereas the one I found has a slightly smaller and yellower trumpet with petals more outstretched.

Nothing wrong with B&Q Caroline 😀 I love narcissi and crocuses, I love the wild narcissi, the lily of the field from biblical times. Let us all enjoy springtime it goes too quickly. Keep gardening 🌸

Eileen I knew you’d understand. To be honest in Scotland anyway it’s very much a hit and miss, many garden centres/nurseries remain shut after Christmas (not sure of the reasons), but I have only discovered this after driving there – I hadn’t thought to phone ahead. The only place I KNOW is open and trading is my good old go-to, B & Q! PLUS a rather charming fellow customer loaded my compost there at the weekend which was the most excitement in my life since….well a long time! So lovely to see your comment – sharing all your good wishes right back to you! XX

I’m liking the aptly named petticoat daffodils. It’s so good to have a well needed variety of blooms in our gardens just now.

Hi there,
I hope you don’t mind me giving a brief mention to the lovely red Hamamelis or Witch Hazel (above the purple crocuses in the first picture) which looks like ‘Diane’ perhaps? Even up here in County Durham, both it and an orange one called ‘Jelena’ are already in flower, ahead of the classic Hamamelis mollis Pallida, which will soon follow them – definitely a case of last, but not least, because it will have the strongest scernt of the three! And in the classic phrase, ‘other varieties are available’ of course…
Here in the north east it’s been such an encouraging day today, with sunshine, no wind, even a little warmth, and the newly returned curlews singing in the sky above – unbeatable.

Hello Belinda, Laura here, I really loved your photo of the wild crocus field – I’ve never seen anything like it! As you say the crocuses seem to have spread in a completely different way to garden varieties, appearing as singles amongst the meadow grass instead of forming dense clumps. I’d love to know what species they are – they create such a beautiful natural scene. Thanks so much for sending us the link. Best wishes Laura

Hello Linda, Laura here and yes I love the petticoat daffodil too, and at RHS Wisley it has been naturalised in their alpine meadow, so I’m going to try this as well – as long as I remember to order the bulbs this autumn! Best wishes and happy gardening L

Hello Caroline, yes the hamamelis is ‘Diane’! And by a bit of serendipity I have ‘Jelena’ right beside it, also now in full flower. I don’t have ‘Pallida’ yet but am very tempted…. I do however have one other called ‘Aurora’ which I can’t recommend highly enough; it doesn’t have the lovely horizontal branching habit of ‘Diane’ and ‘Jelena’ as it is more upright, but the flowers are a beautiful ochre colour and the scent is just amazing- like freesias – and it fills that corner of the garden. Everyone coming through the gate (mainly Amazon drivers at the moment …) comments on it.
Lovely to hear that the curlews are returning, we spend a lot of time on the Isle of Islay in the Hebrides and love to hear their evocative calls. Best wishes Laura

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