Monday, 2 October 2017

Drifts of daffodils ~ yellow, cream, orange and white ~ so many lovely variations ~

I've always loved daffodils.  Some years back we lived in a place which had a field of daffodils just over the fence.  To my mixed bafflement and tantalisation it was clear that cultivation had been abandoned long ago and the whole area overtaken by long grass.  For most of each year sheep grazed there, but each spring they were excluded while a multitude of deeply buried bulbs sent forth their tender growth; these worked their way through layers of matted roots and overgrown grass in an annual pilgrimage to the light and sun, then burst forth in golden glory.

I'd grown up near market gardens of flowers so knew what I was looking at, and it seemed a crying shame that this great show took place in such an inaccessible spot.  They deserved to be seen and shared!  I was much inclined to hop over the fence and help myself, not only to bunches of flowers, but also to buckets of bulbs; no one else seemed to want them, but I did, or at least a selection of them.  Each spring I looked at them with both disappointment and envy but as I had no idea who the field belonged to and it seemed wrong to help myself without permission I did nothing. 

One spring, after we had been there a few years, I finally got my act together and decided that it was now or never - that if I didn't make an effort to track down the owners and get some while they were still flowering the opportunity might not come again.


Finding the owners took determination: I had to beat back ingrained shyness and summon up a degree of persistence but it wasn't actually hard, and when we met it was a pleasure.  Kathleen was happy for me to dig up my choice of bulbs, and said she had been meaning to dig up some for her daughter as well; she suggested we do it together.  What could be better!  To ensure goodwill I offered to pay for them, and we agreed that a suitable donation to the SPCA in her name would be a satisfactory arrangement.  I also offered her some of my irises, which she was happy to accept.  Just as she had a surfeit of daffodils, so did I have a multitude of irises!  It's great to share the good stuff! 

A week or so later we met in the paddock and spent a contented afternoon digging around those overgrown beds.  From our side of the fence you couldn't tell that the daffies were laid out in rows and beds, but once I started walking around the paddock it became obvious: I could see from the flowers that each bed was of different sort.  There were at least a dozen varieties.

Climbing around the paddock brought back happy childhood memories of the market garden nearest our home, where daffodils nodded in long rows on steep terraces.

It was hard work but great fun prospecting around the hillside, picking out different clumps, and then, depending on what worked best, carefully inserting my large spade or gardening fork to lever those bulbs out.  It took care and patience as most of them were buried deeply under thick mats of grassroots but I managed to get a lovely big haul.  With the daffodils still in flower I was able to put each clump into a separate bag so as not to muddle them up.  I got a full set of all that I could see, which was at least a dozen different sorts.

It rained for a bit but it didn't matter, and after we had been thus busily at work for well over an hour my sister came up with cups of tea and cake - food for the gods!  There is nowhere else in the world that a cup of tea and a picnic tastes as good as the garden in which one is at work!  (It is the best restaurant on earth, but you have to have been working in it and be still in your gardening clothes.) 

Kathleen got a good haul too.  After we had got as many as we could possibly want I helped Kathleen carry hers to the top of the paddock and thanked her.  She generously said I could hop over the fence to pick flowers whenever I liked.  The care I took in being courteous with my enquiry and request seemed richly rewarded.  We were both happy and took home stacks of golden treasure.   

Here is a bunch I took in for the house.  What a lovely variety there was.  I love seeing them all together:


As soon as I could I planted those carefully defined clumps of daffies in a row arranged so that I could keep track of which was which.  I decided that this was the best way to build up my collection.  Although I like them combined once picked, when they are in the garden they have much greater visual impact when planted with others of the same sort.

It was just as well to have been particular about how and where I planted them as when it came time to move house it was winter and all those bulbs were invisibly below ground.  This meant that although I had little idea which clump was which I did know exactly where they were, so was able to get them all out.  Once they flowered again it took me a while to figure out which was which, but the main thing is that I had managed to keep them all in their original clumps and to take them all with me.

Identifying them:
For my own reference and for the pleasure of others I have photographed them and shown them here.  I've numbered rather than named them.  I don't know their names, and even if I did, the identifying tags are more easily numbered than named, as you will see from the descriptions below.  Where I've had a range of good photos of one sort I've included them to improve the chance of accurate identification.

I have observed that they don't all flower at the same time, and that colour faded somewhat as blooms aged, which can lead to confusion: for example, is a large one with the cream outer petals and an orange centre (number 9) the same as the one with yellow outer petals and a bright orange centre (number 2), but just faded a bit?  And is the timing of their flowering innately different or due to some other factor.  I've commented as accurately as my recent observations allows, but can't say for sure; next year I will be able to compare notes and take a better informed look.  It has taken time and attention to detail to establish these probable answers, and as a result I've become a lot more observant!  Now when I'm out and about and glancing at other daffodils I can see right away if they are like mine, or different, or if I've never seen that sort before!  I've found this with other things I've taken the time to observe and learn about: the more I look and learn, the more I see, which is a particular form of wealth. 

Here is my collection:

Number 1:
This is a favourite.  They are large, with golden bowl-shaped centres and rounded pale yellow outer petals.  This year it was one of the first to flower.  Flowers lasted for ages.


Here is one close up:


Here they are fading.  They flowered vigorously and lasted a long time.  We had a lot of wind which was ageing for all the daffies.  They stood up to it well, however.


Number 2:
These are large, with pale orange bowl-shaped centres and yellow outer petals. 


Number 3:
These are large.  The centres are perhaps more cone-shaped than bowl-like and a very dark orange.  The outer petals are almost white.  They flowered vigorously and rather later than some of the others.


Here is a close-up:


Number 4: 
I'm much inclined to call this one "Miss Frilly" as it's sumptuous!  The blooms are large, and the centre is a combination of cream and yellow, with these rather like layers of petticoats.  As you can see in this image the centres are in distinct layers: each centre is yellow, then a layer of cream, then a yellow outer petticoat, and then the outer petals are cream.  They flowered later than the others. 


Here it is again:


Number 5:
These blooms are medium-sized, with two blooms on each long stalk: they have a small neat central cone which is orange, and the outer petals are white.


Looking at blooms close up gives no clue to size:


Number 6:
The classic large yellow trumpets.  Glorious!  These seemed to flower longer than all the rest, but I might have imagined that. 


Number 7:
These are medium-sized and starry looking, with smallish lemon-coloured cones in the centre and fairly narrow and pointed outer petals which are more cream than white.  In my previous garden this clump grew up through a clump of catnip, which my little cat Louisa enjoyed, so I think of them as hers.  Daffodils can be particularly effective when planted in ground cover plants which 'don't mind' their post-flowering dying back. 


Number 8:
These blooms are small but on full-sized stems.  There are five or six blooms on each stem.  Flowers have a lemon yellow cone in the centre and the outer petals are creamy white. 


... and here they are again...


Here they are close up...


Number 9: 
A large bloom, with a bright orange cone and yellow outer petals.  It is very like number 2, but the central cone is a much darker orange.  I don't think this is due number 2 fading with age.  The time of their flowering was quite a distance apart:



Number 10:
This may be a miniature, or maybe the small flower is due to a small and young bulb?  I'll be able to observe it again next spring.  It has a large yellow trumpet and cream outer petals.



Number 11:
This is like number 10 but full sized.  The large trumpet is lemon yellow and the outer petals white or cream.



Number 11 again and faded?  I don't know.  I took the photos some time apart and by the time I took the second one I'd had a go at sorting out the numbering and had lost track!



Number 12:
Blooms are medium to full-sized: the centre is an extended yellow cone rather than a trumpet, and the outer petals are white/cream.  


Numbers 13 to 15 I'm not sure enough to describe.

Number 16:
The bloom is large with an orange centre and the outer petals are cream, which is somewhat similar to numbers 2 and 9, but quite distinct (I think?!).


I've looked for information on the internet about possible names of these varieties but found nothing conclusive.  

Classification is based on detailed analysis of petals and their colour and the number of blooms per stem, etc.  I couldn't be sure that any mine are shown on any of the pages I've looked at. 

At present all my daffies are in tubs where they will remain until I find a more permanent home.  Some of them need re-potting, which I will do once the flowers have fully died back, but they are doing okay and don't seem to mind being in tubs.  In fact they have done very well.  I wonder about the paddock of  daffodils we left behind.  Maybe I should go back there for a visit...

For your interest here is the link to:
And two nice pages by the Mercervale Nursery, the first one about classification:
... and this one about the planting and care of daffodils:
To find my other gardening articles click the link below:
The story about my previous garden which was next the field of daffodils is here:
.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's always a delight to see the daffodils after winter. They have such a sweet scent, too.
Those in your photos are beautiful - I particularly like No. 2, with the softer lemon shade, and No. 4, the frilly one.
- Valerie.

Leigh Christina Russell said...

Hi Valerie, nice to hear from you. I'm in constant debate with myself as to which ones I like best! Number 13 produced it's first flower for me today - a little charmer, the photograph of which I'll add in later. One surprise is that there are no jonquils in this collection at all. Maybe the people who planted that field of daffies decided that there were enough of these in other gardens!? :-)
Best wishes
Leigh.