Since it is the very start of Spring, I thought I would celebrate with a post on my favourite Spring bulbs in the cutting garden. I have also included bulbs from other parts of the garden, where they fit into the same bulb type. These were our first jonquils for the season.Most of the bulbs were sourced from Tesselaars (https://www.tesselaar.net.au). However, I bought the Narcissus panizzianus and Lady Tulips from Lambley Nursery (http://lambley.com.au/) and the rest of the latter from the Drewitt Bulbs stall (2nd photo below) at the Lanyon Plant Fair (http://www.drewittsbulbs.com.au/).The erlicheer jonquils were given to us by a friend. We have been enjoying the jonquils for the last few weeks of Winter, so I will start with Narcissi, then progress to tulips, freesias, anemones and ranunculus.
Narcissi Also known as Daffodil, Daffadowndilly, Jonquil and Narcissus
Belonging to the Family Amaryllidaceae, the genus name comes from the Greek word for ‘intoxicated‘: ‘narcotic’ and is associated with the ancient Greek myth of Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection in a pond and drowned.The genus arose in the Late Oligocene to Early Miocene epochs and is native to the meadows and woods of Southern Europe and North Africa, with the centre of diversity in the Western Mediterranean, especially the Iberian Peninsula. Both wild and cultivated plants have naturalized widely and are hardy to Zone 5. They have been cultivated since early times and were introduced into the Far East before the 10th century. They became increasingly popular in Europe before the 16th century and were an important commercial crop in the Netherlands in the late 19th century. Some species are now extinct, while others are threatened by increased urbanization and tourism. They are the national flower of Wales and a symbol of Spring, as well as cancer charities.Description: Perennial herbaceous, bulbiferous geophytes, which die back after flowering to an underground storage bulb. The bulbs are long-lived and naturalize easily.
Mainly green or blue-green narrow, strap-like leaves arise from the bulb.Flowers normally solitary (ie one flower per stem), though there are cluster varieties, which bear their flowers in an umbel. They are generally white, yellow or both, though salmon varieties have been bred. The perianth consists of 3 parts:
Floral tube above the ovary
Outer ring of 6 tepals = undifferentiated sepals and petals
Central cup or trumpet-shaped corona
The flowers have 6 pollen-bearing stamens around a central style and an inferior trilocular ovary and are hermaphroditic, being insect-pollinated by bees, flies, butterflies and hawkmoths. They flower for 4 months from late Winter (June in Australia) to Late Spring (October in Australia) and are divided into early/ mid and late blooms. The fruit is a dry capsule, which splits to release lots of fine black seeds.There are thousands of hybrids, but they are generally divided into 13 sections with up to 50 species : Trumpet; Large-cupped cultivars; Small-cupped cultivars; Double Daffodil cultivars; Triandrus cultivars; Cyclamineus cultivars; Jonquilla cultivars; Tazetta Daffodil cultivars; Poeticus daffodils; Bulbocodium cultivars (Hoop Petticoats); Split Corona cultivars and 2 Miscellaneous groups.Growing Conditions:
Cold is required to initiate flowering, though some varieties tolerate more heat.
Full Winter sun is best or at least half a day.
A well-drained soil is also best.
Plant bulbs in Autumn with pointy end up 1.5 – 5 times the height of the bulb deep and 10 – 12 cm apart or more if naturalizing. Well-rotted manure can be dug into the bed a few weeks before planting the bulbs. The application of potash or a slow release fertilizer with low nitrogen content will encourage more flowers. After flowering, the leaves should be left to dry out over 6 months to allow photosynthesis to replenish the nutrients and energy of the bulb for the next season’s flowering. Bulbs should not be watered when dormant. Daffodils are propagated by bulb division. Diseases include: viruses (eg yellow stripe virus); fungal infections; and basal rot. Pests include: narcissus bulb fly larvae; narcissus eelworm; nematodes, bulb scale mites; and slugs.Use: Ornamental plants for Spring displays; Mixed herbaceous and shrub borders; Deciduous woodland plantings; Rock gardens; Naturalized meadows and lawns and even in containers.They are excellent cut flowers, lasting for up to 1 week, but should not be mixed with other flowers in the same vase, unless preconditioned. Their stems emit a toxic slime, which clogs up the stems of the other flowers, causing their stems to wilt prematurely. Flowers should be picked while still in bud and no floral preservative should be used in the cold water – only a few drops of bleach. To precondition narcissi, cut the stems on the diagonal and stand alone in cold water for at least 24 hours, then discard the water, wash the container thoroughly and arrange with other flowers without recutting the stems of the Narcissi. Care should be taken when handling, as the sap can cause dermatitis, commonly known in the trade as ‘Daffodil Itch’. All daffodils are poisonous if ingested, though they have been used in traditional medicine. Narcissus produce galantamine, which is used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s Dementia.The range of daffodils and jonquils is so extensive (there are over 25 000 cultivars!) that I am only describing the types I have in my garden. For more information on daffodils, there is a beautiful book called: ‘Daffodil: Biography of a Flower’ by Helen O’Neill. Other titles can be found on : http://thedaffodilsociety.com/wordpress/miscellany/books-on-daffodils-some-titles-for-the-interested-amateur-grower/. In fact this site, http://thedaffodilsociety.com/wordpress/, the blog of the Daffodil Society of Great Britain, is a mine of information with links to other societies worldwide; other sources of information; articles on daffodil history; places to see daffodils; suppliers; growth notes and interesting obscure facts about them like the use of their juice by Arabs to cure baldness and their yellow flower dye by high-born medieval women to tint their hair and eyebrows!Species Daffodils:
See : http://www.pacificbulbsociety.org/pbswiki/index.php/NarcissusSpeciesFive
Narcissus poeticus: Pheasant Eye Daffodils: ‘Actaea’
I have always loved these elegant heirloom daffodils, which are one of the earliest daffodils and probably those associated with the ancient Greek myth, which gives them their name. The species was first described by Linnaeus in 1753 in his work: ‘Species Plantarum’. Their natural habitat is from Greece to France, with the northernmost wild population in a valley in West Ukraine near the Russian border.They have long stems, each bearing a single flower, 7 cm wide, with a small shallow yellow corona with a neat red rim and wide vivid, white, pointed, reflexed petals. They have an earthy clove-like fragrance. They flower late in the season and cope better with wet, poorly drained areas than most other daffodils. Best in full sun and well-drained soil, they should be planted at a depth 3 times the height of the bulb and 10 – 20 cm apart. They naturalize well.Narcissus panizzianus
Another heirloom variety, which were grown by Lambleys Nursery from wild seed collected in Italy over 20 years ago. This paperwhite tazetta daffodil grows wild from Portugal to Italy and Greece in Southern Europe and Algeria and Morocco in North Africa. The 35 cm tall stems bear up to 12 pure white flowers with a spicy fragrance in Winter. They have grey green leaves and grow well in dry parts of the garden. I have planted 4 bulbs under my deciduous maple in front of my white statue, Chloe; 5 bulbs around the rusty iron ring statue; and 5 bulbs under the Bull Bay Magnolia; but while they have all produced leaves, they are yet to flower!
Narcissus x tazetta : Fragrant Daffodils and Jonquils:
Paperwhite Ziva N. tazetta subsp papyraceus ‘Ziva’
The most commonly grown paperwhite, this long-lived frost hardy bulb hails from the West Mediterranean region : Greece, Portugal, Morocco and Algeria and can be grown from Zones 8 – 11. They have blue-grey strap-like foliage and 45 cm tall slender stems bearing clusters of highly fragrant, musk-scented, pure white star-shaped flowers from late Winter to early Spring. The bulbs are frost hardy and should be planted at a depth of 10 – 15 cm and 10 cm apart. They flower 2 – 3 weeks after planting.Erlicheer
These tazetta type jonquils have highly fragrant clusters of 6 – 20 cream to ivory flowers on each stem and are 30 – 75 cm high. Bulbs should be planted at a depth 3 times the height of the bulbs and 10 – 12 cm apart. They naturalize easily, are good in warmer climates and are one of the first narcissi to flower. And they are really tough. Our bulbs were given to us by friends while we were still renting and they sat in a box in the dark under the house for one whole season before we finally remembered them and planted them out and even the drying shrinking bulbs survived and regained their vigour after a year in the ground!Golden Dawn
Another fragrant cluster daffodil with broad leaves and 40 cm tall stems, each bearing 5 pale yellow flowers (each 4.5 cm wide with an orange corona). See yellow flowers next to the Actaea in the photo below. They have a strong sweet fragrance. Very similar to Soleil d’Or, they flower much later in mid to late Spring. The bulbs should be planted at a depth 1.5 – 2 times their own height and naturalize well. Double Daffodils: Narcissus x pseudonarcissus:
A late season bulb, they are 30 – 70 cm tall and have very double, creamy white petals and petaloids with a small deep orange cup. The planting depth is 3 times the height of the bulb and they should be positioned 10 – 20 cm apart.Wintersun: Wintersun is a mid-season bulb, 30 – 70 cm tall, with a bright yellow flower.Miniature Daffodils: Tête à Tête
These tiny daffodils have golden yellow flowers, 3 – 4cm wide, on 15 cm stems early to mid-season. Each bulb produces more than one flower- usually up to 3 – 4 and often in pairs, with the flower heads facing each other, so they look like they are engaged in a private conversation, ‘tête à tête’, thus their name! They are placed in the Miscellaneous category, as they do not fit easily into the other types. Their seed parent was a primary hybrid of N.cyclamineus and N. tazetta ‘Grand Soleil d’Or’, while the pollen parent was N. cyclamineus. Bulbs should be planted 5 – 15 cm apart at a depth of 3 times their height. Tough and hardy, they are tolerant to both heat and severe cold and are perfect for small gardens, rockeries, the front of beds and pots. Mine are in my treasure garden and have just flowered for the first time! The plants are sterile, but are propagated by bulb division.Tulips:
Tulips are also very popular, highly hybridized bulbs, which have been cultivated since the 10th century. They belong to the Liliaceae or Lily Family and their genus name is the Latinized version of the Turkish name ‘tulbend’, meaning ‘turban’ and referring to the inverted flowers of some of the species.Habitat: Mountainous areas of temperate climates in Turkey and the Mediterranean areas. 14 wild species are still found in Turkey, but they are very different to the huge showy blooms of the modern hybridized tulips. History: Wild collected plants were first hybridized in Persian gardens. They were very popular with the Seljuks and during the Tulip Era of the later Ottoman Empire, when they were a symbol of abundance and indulgence.Introduced to Europe in 1594 by Carolus Clusius (1526 – 1609), a Flemish medical doctor and botanist, they became a subject of speculative frenzy in the Netherlands and a form of currency during a period called Tulipomania from 1634 – 1637, when a single bulb fetched an exhorbitantly high price! They were also painted in many Dutch still-life paintings of the period. The Keukenhof in the Netherlands is the largest permanent display garden of tulips in the world. See: http://www.keukenhof.nl/en/footer/about-keukenhof/.For more information about the fascinating history of tulips in both Turkey and the Netherlands, try to read a copy of ‘Tulipomania’ by Mike Dash.Description: Bulbous perennials with Spring flowers of a wide range of forms (single/ double), stem lengths, colours (single and bicolours) and flowering times (early/ mid/ late Spring). They have an upright clump habit with medium green to grey green glaucous foliage. The oblong to elliptical leaves, up to 38 cm long and 10 cm wide, twist as they rise directly from the underground bulb and have acute apices. The fruit is an elongated to elliptical ribbed capsule on the spent flower stem and contains many fine black seed.Growing Conditions: Tulips like climates with a long cool Spring, a dry Summer and a cold Winter (Zones 5 – 7). They need a period of cool dormancy (vernalization). In areas with a warm Winter, they should be grown as an annual. They love full sun (but will tolerate partial shade) and moist, rich, well-drained soils. The bulbs should be planted in late Autumn (after 6 weeks in a brown paper bag in the fridge) at a depth of 3 times the height of the bulb- usually 10 – 20 cm deep and 10 – 15 cm apart. I usually plant them on Mothers’ Day. After flowering, leave the leaves to fully senesce before removing in Summer, so the bulbs can replenish their nutrients via photosynthesis for optimal growth the following season. Propagation is by bulb division or bulblet separation, the seeds taking at least 2 years to propagate! Hybrid tulip bulbs decrease in floral performance and vigour within 1 – 2 years of planting, unlike the species tulips, which get better and better! Their primary disease is bulb rot due to poor drainage, but there are also other fungal and viral diseases. The 2nd photo below shows last year’s tulips in their 2nd season.
Use: Tulips are planted as a Spring accent in beds and borders, naturalized drifts and even in pots. They are lovely in vases, but any wiring to support their heads must make allowance for the fact that their stems will continue to grow towards the light. Preservative should be avoided, as the sugar results in stem stretching, causing the flowers to flop over. Use cold water with 30 ppm chlorine and never mix with freshly cut Narcissi, until after the latter have been conditioned. Care should be taken when handling tulips, as their anthocyanin causes allergies and dermatitis. They are toxic to horses, cats and dogs.Species Tulips (also known as Botanical Tulips)
There are 150 different wild species from Central Asia to Spain and Portugal. They differ to the hybrids in that they are usually much smaller in both plant height and flower size; have pointed petals; flower from late Winter to early Spring and like hot dry Summers; and they increase in bulb number and floral performance over the years. In the photo below, the hybrid tulip on the left dwarfs the Clusiana species tulips on the right. A good site to consult about species tulips is : http://www.pacificbulbsociety.org/pbswiki/index.php/TulipaSpeciesOne.
Some of them include:
Tulipa batalinii ( yellow dwarf species) and T. linifolia (red Flax-leaved or Bokharan Tulip) from the Bukhara region of Uzbekistan and Turkey.
Tulipa kaufmanniana (Water Lily Tulip): Turkestan; Low growing; Cup shaped blooms with pointed petals of variegated base colour; One of the earliest tulips to flower.
Tulipa gregii: Turkestan; Short stems and large orange-scarlet to creamy-yellow blooms.
Tulipa altaica: Central Asia; Yellow pointed petals.
Tulipa agenensis (Eyed Tulip): Middle East; Crimson red with yellow patch around black centre inside.
Tulipa hageri: Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey and Greece. Red flowers. See photo below.
Tulipa saxatilis (Satin or Rock Tulip) : Bright pink flowers with yellow centres. Hails from the Southern Aegean islands, Crete, Rhodes and Western Turkey.
Tulipa tarda (Late Tulip): Tien Shan mountains of Central Asia; Yellow petals with white pointed tips.
Tulipa acuminata (Fire Flame or Turkish Tulip): Turkey; Rare heirloom tulip, described 1813; Flowers mid Spring; Long narrow scarlet and yellow petaloids with pointy ends.
Tulipa clusiana ‘Cynthia’ Also known as Lady Tulip, Candlestick Tulip or Persian Tulip
An heirloom species, it was originally thought to be native to the Middle East, specifically Iran (Persia), Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tibet, Kashmir and the Western Himalayas, but now believed to be indigenous to Spain. It has been cultivated through much of Europe since the early 1600s. Tulipa clusiana was named after the Flemish botanist, Carolus Clusius, whose work ‘Curae Posteriores’ (1606) documents the obtaining of bulbs via a Florentine grower from Constantinople. The species is normally striped red and white like a peppermint stick, but ‘Cynthia’ is striped red and yellow. It was introduced to gardeners in 1959 by CG Van Tubergen.Description: Narrow grey-green leaves; Solitary flowers in early Spring, borne on 25 cm stems. The pointed , rose-red tepals are edged with pale yellow on the outside and are pale yellow within. I cannot wait for this bud to open and to see the flower for the first time!Growing Conditions: They require a chilly dormancy, so cold Winters are a requirement (Zones 3 – 8). They love full sun and perfect drainage in an organically enriched sandy soil. Plant in the Autumn, 5 – 10 cm deep and 5 – 10 cm apart. Don’t water much, as too much water during Winter dormancy results in bulb rot. These bulbs do not set seed, but are propagated by bulb offsets and stolons. The bulbs naturalize easily to form large colonies. Diseases include gray mould and mosaic virus, while pests include aphids; slugs and snails; and mice and voles.