Saturday, April 24, 2010

Daffodowndillies and lost love

We don't really "do" daffodils in Colorado they way we should: people water enough so that the sort of display you find throughout our Lilac Garden (always wonderful but positively stunning since Ann Montague came aboard: she's one of Denver Botanic Gardens supreme secret weapons). There are huge spreads of dozens of cultivars, all perfectly labeled. Drop by and check them out some time in the next week or so: they are in peak form. We should have even more masses like this, since most people water more than enough to grow them like they do in England or the US coasts where some public gardens are chockablock full of daffies: a good thing!
A closeup of a luminous hybrid taken at Waring House where there's a fine stand: I forgot to photograph the label. Sorry! Brent Heath would know what this was immediately, as would John Morris in St. Louis. I shall in my next life. But I'm a species man!

And man oh man, this is the species: the typical wild form of Narcissus pseudonarcissus, the Tenby Daffodil, so called. This is the ancestor of most hybrids, and just as lovely, still found wild here and there in England although I suspect a lot of the wild locations represent sites of ancient cultivation. This is the plant through which William Wordsworth wandered cloudily. I can't imagine a literary gardener not wanting a planting of this (I put these in the Rock Alpine Garden nearly 30 years ago! They've obliged yearly ever since, clumping up nicely. Most years Corydalis bulbosa joins them, but this year they're taking separate vacations. Bad sign, that.

This is my one claim to fame narcissistically, so to speak. I got some bulbs of this (Narcissus scaberulus) collected in Portugal in the mid 1980's and planted them at the Gardens and in my home garden. They eventually petered out at DBG, but prospered at my Eudora garden where they made quite a large colony. When we sold that house I tried to collect as many as I could which I shared around, and fortunately, it's taken to my new home well, and I have quite a few dotting my rock work. Mind you, this plant is practically non-existent in commerce. The flower is barely an inch across: you could not have too much of this good thing, and thank Heavens it likes my Quince place! BTW, the new owners of Eudora have actually kept the place up: I went by the other day...there were hundreds of Corydalis malkensis blooming and everything was trim. Very cool! I hope some of the scaberulus stayed put for them!

And finally my current fave, Narcissus bulbocodium var. graelsii. This is the first time this taxon has bloomed for me, and it's spurred me on to try more of this wonderful section of daffodils. One of the most enchanting experiences of my life was wandering cloudily through vale after vale of miniature hoop petticoat daffodils naturalized by the million (really!) one luminous late afternoon in April 29 years ago exactly at Savill Garden. Giant Magnolia campbellii were sporting their immense pink salvers overhead, and Lysichiton americanum and L. camtschaticum both were proliferating along the freshets in absolute perfection of yellow and white respectively....and did I mention the sweeps of primroses? And every vale had its own subspecies of N. bulbocodium in perfect perfection in the amber twilight, and just me and my girlfriend (my childhood love). Not all is lost: I have some fabulous transparencies of Savill, and she's still alive and seemingly happy, and heck! We're Facebook Friends...

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