Good gardening friend Paul Parent of the Paul Parent Garden Club (http://www.paulparent.com/) sends out a great newsletter every week with pertinent gardening topics. I encourage you to go to his website to sign up for his newsletter. Paul can also be heard every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 10 AM at his website or at WBACH (104.7 FM) every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 9 AM. Paul recently sent this article out called "Daffodils, Narcissus and Jonquils" (I occasionally add a few comments in italics) and here it is:
"Have you ever heard the story of how the narcissus got its name? A long time ago, Greek mythology stories and writing told the story of Narcissus, the young son of a Greek god, who was led to believe by his father that a long and happy life would be his if he never gazed upon his own features. By chance, Narcissus saw his own reflection in a quiet pool of water and fell in love with his own reflection. Because of this, Narcissus soon withered away; at the spot where he died, beautiful nodding flowers sprang up and were named after him.
Greek stories also tell of the narcotic perfume smell of the flower and how it was used to stupefy those who were to be punished for crimes committed. Other writers said that the fragrance of the flower led to hallucinations and madness. The beauty of the flower has led many gardeners to madness, but the madness is about the beauty of the flower in their gardens. Judge for yourself--plant daffodils in your garden this fall and enjoy the madness in the spring.
In the early days of daffodils, they were called "Lent lilies," as these flower bulbs bloomed naturally in the garden during the Lenten holidays. Today's Easter lily blooms naturally during late June; the Easter lily is forced into bloom by your local florist to celebrate the holiday. Another name given to the daffodil was "chalice flower," because of the shape of the corona or trumpet. Look at the narcissus trumpet--it does resemble the shape of the cup or chalice used to hold the sacramental wine.
The jonquil is a member of the amaryllis family. If you look at writings from Homer and Sophocles hundreds of years ago, you will see how popular they were back then. You may be wondering why I am using three different names for this bulb--let me tell you. Daffodil is the common name for the entire family; narcissus is the Latin or botanical name. The name "jonquil" was given to hybrids that were developed from this family; it means a sweetly scented, rich, yellow species of Narcissus having a slender rounded flower stem and rush-like leaves--hybrids. So no matter what you call them in your garden you are right, no matter what name you use.
Daffodils were wildflowers many years ago, like most of the flowers we have in our gardens today. The Dutch gardeners loved them so much that they began to cross them together to develop new flower strains, and their popularity grew and grew. Dutch records show that in 1548, there were only 24 different types of daffodils, in 1629, the numbers grew to 90 and by 1948, they had grown to almost 8,000 varieties. Today there are over 10,000 varieties and new ones each year.
In Holland today there are only two unique areas where daffodils are grown commercially. One area is 25 square miles in area and concentrated, while the second area is spread out over the country side and not much larger than the major bulb growing area totaling just 50 square miles of soil where they can be grown for exporting.
As the love for these bulbs grew, the Dutch government quickly realized that it would have to act to protect the quality of these bulbs and keep them insect and disease free if the industry was to prosper. The growers and the government together set up guidelines to protect this valuable crop. Strict rules were imposed to keep the Dutch bulb industry safe and strong. Today, no bulb can leave Holland until they are guaranteed to flower in your garden, and are certified insect and disease free.
Narcissus bulbs must be planted in a soil that is well drained and rich in organic matter if you want them to re-bloom for several years to come. Wet soil with standing water or soil that contains clay will kill the bulb during the first winter in the ground, because wet soil will rot the delicate roots. Animal manure or, better still, compost is the best soil conditioner when planting. (We recommend Bulb Tone by Espoma as the best all around planting fertilizer for bulbs).
If your soil is on the sandy side, be sure to add Soil Moist Granules to help hold moisture around the bulbs during the summer time. When planting, select a location with as much sun as possible or plant under trees that leaf out after the flower fades to allow the foliage to make and replace the energy it takes to make new flower buds for next year. If planting under evergreens, plant near the drip line or tips of the branches to insure the bulb foliage gets some sun.
Bulbs need to be fertilized spring and fall for the best flowers every year. Apply Bulb-Tone fertilizer around the foliage while it is in bloom while you remember to care for the plant. Also NEVER, use bone meal as a fertilizer around outdoor bulbs as it will draw animals to the garden--and they will dig up the garden looking for possible bones left there as their food.
It is also important to remove the flowers as they fade to prevent the plant from making useless seed that will never develop properly in your garden. This way all the energy made by the plant is used by the plant for next year's growth and not wasted on unusable seeds. Use a plastic golf tee to mark the bulb cluster in your garden so you will know where to apply the fertilizer in the fall in the fall; weather will flake the paint off wooden tees.
Always plant in groups and never in straight lines as it will be easier to plant annuals around them as the daffodil foliage begins to fade. (Excellent advice!) Remove the foliage to the ground ONLY when the foliage begins to turn yellow! Plant bulbs with a covering of conditioned soil that covers the bulb with twice as much soil as the bulb is high. Example: daffodil bulbs are 3 inches tall so you must dig a hole 9 inches deep! Three inches for the bulb and six inches of soil to cover it. I advise you use Bark Mulch over them for added winter protection.
If you are planting them as wildflowers and are naturalizing them, the grass will do the same as mulch to protect them. If you are mowing this area, be sure the foliage has begun to die back before cutting and NEVER use a lawn weed control product to control weeds or the bulbs will also be killed. When planting narcissus, be sure to plant the bulb with the pointed part of the bulb facing UP. Plant bulbs in groups of 5 to 7 bulbs for the best show of color; also, if the weather gets stormy, they will be able to brace each other from the wind and rain.
Check with your local garden center for information on blooming time so you can plant several types that will bloom at staggered times in your garden. Also consider height of flowers, shape of flower, flower color combinations--and look for unique characteristics of the plant. Remember daffodils are NOT eaten by animals of any type, so do not worry about voles this winter and rabbits and deer in the spring when they are in bloom. Enjoy and plant now." (We have got many awesome varieties here at Skillin's for you!)
Paul Parent Garden Club