Lee Valley Tools    Gardening Newsletter
   Vol. 4, Issue 4
   August 2009
 
Daffodils
 


  The author's daffodil garden.
  The author's daffodil garden.

The arrival of bulb catalogs is a sure sign of the changing seasons. Daffodils (Narcissus) are my number one bulb choice. They're easy to grow. Most types are hardy to about -35°C (-31°F), depending on snow cover. They're not only reliably perennial, but also multiply readily. Deer and other critters generally leave them alone, as they are poisonous. They're also a good cut flower. What's not to love?

However, it's a bit risky to declare one's affection for Narcissus, at least the one of myth. That's because, depending on whose version you go by, Narcissus was a beautiful, self-absorbed young man who rejected the attentions of his many admirers. One of these spurned admirers committed suicide, but in dying, asked the gods to punish Narcissus. Hearing the plea, a goddess caused him to fall in love with his reflection in a pool, whereupon he pined away and died. On the spot where he died grew his namesake flower.

The disheartening legend did not taint the flower itself; its cheerfulness has been cited in poetry and prose for more than 2,000 years. From the various original species, daffodils were slowly spread and hybridized. It is believed that by the mid-1500s, about 24 different kinds had been identified, and by the mid-1600s, there were about a hundred different types.

But it wasn't until the mid-1800s when interest in hybridizing daffodils took off and several thousand cultivars were developed. Apparently a daffodil craze (similar but less excessive than the tulip mania of the 1630s) arose in England in the late 1800s, with choice bulbs going for the equivalent of up to $100 U.S. each.

 
 
           
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