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A Northumberland Alpine Gardener's Diary

This entry: 22 April 2016 by John Richards

Northumberland Diary. Entry 315.

Narcissi

It is proving a vintage year for daffodils and their ilk this year, possibly because many seemed to go 'blind' last year and took a year out. I think some of them may have been given a feed of slow release after flowering as well, and Sheila is much more meticulous about dead-heading than I. Of course, we are well past the 'earlies' and 'Tete-a-tete', 'February Silver', 'Jetfire', 'Jumblie' and other favourites are now a distant memory. This has caused me to take stock of what we have amongst the main crop, now at their best, and it has not been an easy matter. We have been trying to remember if there were narcissi here when we came over 26 years ago. Probably there were, but we have since acquired them from various sources including cheap bags of mixed unnamed bulbs, a few brought from the last garden (not easy as we moved in October but we had potted a few in anticipation), and bulbs bought for pots on the patio, and then planted out when they had finished (the lovely 'Thalia' is a good example, not further mentioned here).

Whatever, I had few if any names and it has been an interesting exercise trying to track down the correct assignations. What follows involved a certain amount of guesswork, so lets start with a couple I am sure about. This one flowering in pots on the terrace this year still has its label and is 'Tresamble', a large triandrus cross like a bigger 'Thalia' and not as graceful, but still nice.

Narcissus 'Tresamble'

There is also no doubt that this is the excellent form of Narcissus poeticus named 'Actaea' which we have attempted to naturalise in the lawn. The bulbs have increased to large clumps, but you can still recognise the placing of the original six.

Narcissus poeticus 'Actaea'

In some of the wilder marginal parts of the garden there are mixed lots of daffodils which have persisted for many years and are making a good show.

At times they have become mixed up when I, or other agents such as rodents, have moved bulbs around, more by accident than design. Here is a confused little corner, together with Erythronium 'Pagoda' which also pops up all over the garden unannounced. I am fairly sure that the large white trumpet daffodil here is 'Mount Hood', also with 'Toreador' which appears in the following picture.

Narcissus 'Toreador' is very vigorous here.

Narcissus 'Toreador'

'Tuesday's Child' is another really good doer here and I am exceptionally fond of it. Really, it is 'full of grace'.

Narcissus 'Tuesday's Child'

Before we leave the short-cupped poeticus hybrids, by far the showiest is 'Duke of Windsor'. It is a shame that such a showy narcissus should be named for such a horrible man, but I suppose its rather garish quality might suit his rapacious Duchess.

Narcissus 'Duke of Windsor'

We now come to the daffodils proper, more or less self-coloured with a long trumpet (corona). I have been convinced for much of my life that the big golden plant with frilly trumpets with recurved edges was called 'King Alfred'.  Googling this reveals a plant very much like the following, but I have a sneaky suspicion that our plant is in fact 'Rembrandt'. Can anyone tell me how to tell the difference?

I am now on really shaky ground. I think this plant with shorter trumpets, a wider 'cup' and slightly bicoloured may well be 'Dutch Master', but there are a number like this.

The bicoloured plant with rather long narrow lemon trumpets in the centre of this general view may be 'Polindra', but the jury is out.

I am fairly sure this double is 'White Lion'. I have to say that I am no great fan of double daffs, or indeed most double flowers, but this one has a little more style than most, especially the appallingly untidy 'Queen Anne's daffodil'.

Finally, I have no idea what this long-trumpeted self is. Any suggestions?

Before we leave narcissus completely, I thought I would introduced you to this little chap, grown from AGS seed sown in 2012 and producing two flowers for the first time, in four years, not too bad I thought. It was acquired as N. scaberulus, but that is an Apondanthe species, while the present plant is plainly a section Jonquilla (following Blanchard). With a straight tube of 20 mm and a grooved green erect leaf, I think it must be N. willkommii, although web pictures of this tend to show more reflexed petals. It does answer all the measurements for this species in Blanchard though.

Two stalwarts of this garden, Erythronium 'Pagoda' and Trillium kurabayashii have made guest appearences in the foregoing. In several places they now occur together harmoniously, although I don't think this was ever planned.

Anemone nemorosa 'Robinsoniana' is another plant which has spread to many parts of the garden, in parts resembling a piece of fallen sky. We do have white and pink forms too, but these tends to be less vigorous.

Anemone nemorosa 'Robinsoniana'

A couple of Porophyllum saxifrages. S. porophyllum itself, from the south of Italy, is fairly new to this garden, but seems to be establishing itself in a fishbox. It flowers earlier than S. sempervivum here.

Saxifraga porophylla

I have featured the lovely S. ferdinandi-coburgii before, when young plants from Pirin seed made superb mats. As is their wont, these big plants eventually collapsed, and the remains were stuffed into the edge of various containers where they have formed smaller plants.

Saxifraga ferdinandi-coburgii

In yet another fishbox, I have been pleased with one plant of Pulsatilla vernalis from my own collected Pyrenean seed which has produced a couple of flowers having had a glass 'hat' during the winter. A second plant had buds which aborted.

Pulsatilla vernalis

Also new to this garden, purchased from a local group stall at a Show last year, is this plant of Iris pumila. Closely related, it is earlier and leggier than the I. aphylla I have grown for many years. I shall keep it in the alpine house where it can be cooked in the summer.

Iris pumila

Its a good time for the European primulas. Three related species are flowering together and make a good contrast. The leggiest is P. pedemontana, of which I have just been given the less vigorous white form. The almost stemless plant with white stellate eyes is P. cottia, usually treated as a subspecies of P.villosa, but geographically isolated, and, one has to say, very different in aspect. The third plant with the brilliant deep red flowers is a particularly good form of the widespread P. hirsuta.

I shall finish with what I think it the best white European primula, better than the ubiquitous P. 'Broadwell Milkmaid', and better than 'Tony' which is prone to collapse. This is P. 'Aire Waves', with such large, well-formed flowers of a good clean white. Like all these, I find it succeeds best in a gritty compost in a plastic pot.

Primula 'Aire Waves'
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