30 April, 2014

Narcissus x Medioluteus:The Original Poetaz Hybrid Daffodil

Pale Narcissus or Primrose Peerless by James Sowerby
Narcissus x medioluteus  is the botanical name for a daffodil that is known by many common names. You may know it by the name April Beauties, Loving Couples,Cemetery Ladies or by its former Latin name N. biflorus. It is often simply called 'two-flowered narcissus' although it may produce one or occasionally three flowers to a stem.

'Twin Sisters ' may have been one of the “old fashioned” daffodils your great grandmother grew in her garden but it is much older than .you might imagine. N. x medioluteus is actually a wildflower,a naturally occurring hybrid between Narcissus poeticus var, 'Recurvus and N. tazetta originally discovered in the West of France.

English botanist John Gerard called this unassuming little narcissus 'Primrose Peerless' in his Generall Historie of Plantes published in 1597. He described it as “Gererally knowne everywhere” so it must have been in English gardens  for some time by the end of the century.

Known as Narcissus biflorus, the little daffodil became naturalized in Great Britain,Ireland as well as much of the European mainland and later in New Zealand,parts of Australia and the Eastern United States.'Twin sisters' is probably one of the earliest pass along plants.

By the 20th Century N. medioluteus had fallen out of favor in England as gardeners eagerly embraced the many newer,large hybrid daffodils. Although still fairly common in the English countryside as late as the 1940s,in the early 21st Century wild populations of 'Twin Sisters' have become scarce in Great Britain.

Some sources state that most of the naturalized bulbs growing in England and elsewhere were probably the result of people tossing them out on roadsides and in creeks and rivers. I have no doubt there is some truth to this as it's human nature to devalue things that are common,including garden plants.But it also is true that these little bulbs once were considered valuable enough as a garden plant that people carried the bulbs with them when they moved to new countries.

In the United States naturalized populations of 'Twin Sisters' can still occasionally be seen in the Carolinas,Virginia and in the Tennessee and Mississippi River Valleys. As the common name 'Cemetery Ladies' hints it is often found planted in old graveyards. It blooms in mid to late April in the Southern United States but often doesn't bloom until May or June in other places.

My Close Encounter With 'Twin Sisters'

N. x medioluteus doesn't grow in my garden yet but on Easter Sunday I had an unexpected encounter with this historic daffodil. I was taking a walk when I stopped to snap a few pictures of a large patch of blue-eyed grass on the roadside. A few feet away I noticed a stand of spiderwort (tradescantia) that was buzzing with huge bumblebees. The spiderworts are escapees from an old abandoned garden nearby that is mostly hidden
from view

I estimate the old garden dates to the late 1950s.It was abandoned in the mid 80s after the house burned down. Many daffodils,irises and roses still bloom happily on this site without any help from a human gardener. It is in such places that many historic daffodils can be found.

Most of the daffodils on this site are the old Southern favorite 'Orange Phoenix' also known as 'Bacon and Eggs.' 'Orange Phoenix' had finished blooming weeks earlier and I was not expecting to find daffodils blooming there in late April but I was in for a surprise.

N. Medioluteus Twin Sisters
Narcissus x Medioluteus 'Twin Sisters'
As I was crouched low on the ground taking pictures of the spiderworts and blue-eyed grass,a gusty wind started blowing and I sat up to stretch my back and wait for the breeze to pass. It was then I noticed what looked like a little white flag blowing in the breeze just to my left. I turned around expecting to see a
flowering onion but was shocked to see the famous 'Twin Sisters' herself.
 I have visited this place many times over the years but I have never seen this little patch of daffodils before. I have seen naturalized plantings of 'Twin Sisters' in the Tennessee Valley but it doesn't seem to be quite as common here in East Central Alabama.

The flowers I happened upon were a little past their prime but still lovely. Two stems had already finished blooming and these two little flowers were the last of the year. I went back on Monday to get a few more shots of the flowers. It rained on Monday night and the blooms were gone on Tuesday morning.

I looked around the area for signs of more 'Twin Sisters' bulbs but didn't find any.I have occasionally dug a few bulbs from old daffodil plantings and I did consider moving these into my own garden. I decided against it in this case since there were no more that four or five 'Twin Sisters bulbs on the site. Historic daffodils often resent being moved so I didn't want to risk harming them.

I may have to save some of the plants in this old garden and in several others nearby at some point,but I never recommend taking all the plants from any site unless they are in immediate peril.

N. x Medioluteus is the First Poetaz Hybrid Daffodil

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries narcissus hybridizers created many new crosses between Poet's daffodils and cluster flowering tazetta daffodils. These are known as Poetaz hybrids and many of them such as 'Geranium' and 'Cheerfulness' are still popular and widely available in the bulb trade today.Of course, N. x medioluteus predates all these modern varieties by several centuries.

Poetaz Narcissus Aspasia
Poetaz  Narcissus 'Aspasia'
Three years ago I planted a  newer historic Poetaz hybrid that  looks like a more refined 'Twin Sisters.' Originally called 'Louise,' this Dutch narcissus was registered as 'Aspasia' in 1908.

'Aspasia' is  described as having three or four flowers to a stem but in my garden it always has two flowers just like 'Twin Sisters.' It blooms in early to mid April,about 10 days earlier than the 'Twin Sisters' bulbs down the road were blooming but bloom time can vary depending on the weather.

 'Aspasia' and other Poetaz hybrids are great performers in my Zone 7 garden where pure Poets tend to wilt in the heat and many of the more tender tazettas can't survive the freezing winter weather.

'Twin Sisters' may be scarce in the wild these days but the bulbs are still available commercially if you'd like to try growing it. It is a wildflower so it probably won't be at home in the most formal gardens. Plant it at the edge of the woods or near shrubs so it can naturalize into large clumps.It is usually the last narcissus to bloom wherever it grows.If you like historic daffodils Narcissus x medioluteus is definitely one to add to your collection.

01 April, 2014

Carlton's Story

Large Cupped Daffodil Carlton
'Carlton' Large Cupped Daffodil
'Carlton' large cupped daffodils are the first flowering bulbs I ever planted. Way back in the mid 1990s, I found a bag of 100 landscape sized bulbs in a local big box garden center. It was late in the fall and they were marked down to $12.95. I couldn't pass up the bargain. The bulbs were small but they were plump and healthy so I took them home.

Garden design genius that I was,I decided to plant them in a 5 by 10 foot rectangle smack in the middle of the 25 foot distance between a large willow oak and a now deceased sweet gum tree. My husband helped with the digging and before the day was done we had five ten foot long trenches. The bulbs were planted in staggered rows.

The first few years 'Carlton' bloomed like gang busters every year and the bulbs increased well although they never grew to a large size. My bargain daffodils bloomed and thrived in their rectangle until 2008. In January of that year a severe thunderstorm produced a down burst of wind that took down two huge nearby pine trees and plunged the top of one into the middle of my flower bed like a giant spear.Over half of the Carlton bulbs as well as many others were lost.

Two years after the storm workmen showed up to dig trenches for the new sewer lines that were being installed. I had talked to the sewer board president a few days earlier and we had agreed on a route that went around the flower bed but the workmen ignored this and dug right through the middle of the garden before I could get outside to stop them. More of the 'Carlton' bulbs were destroyed by those thugs along with many daylilies and irises.

Today,only a remnant of the original bulb planting survives. The sweet gum tree died in the drought of 2007 and a large branch of the oak tree that had shaded most of the garden in the summer was ripped away by yet another storm. The garden spot that had been sunny in the winter and spring and shady in the summer is now in full sun all year long. The flower pictured above is the first flower I have seen from these bulbs since 2011 and it was most welcome.

The remaining bulbs will be moved to the more suitable wooded garden in the back yard. Hopefully, the bulbs will be able to size up and produce more flowers in the coming years. Although I suspect these bargain bulbs may actually be a generic large cupped yellow daffodil rather than the 'real' Carlton, they have sentimental value so I'm going to try to preserve the few that are left.

Will The Real Carlton Please Stand Up?

Carlton Large Cupped Daffodil 2014
Carlton II 2014
In 2012 I planted about a dozen bulbs of the strain of 'Carlton' sold by Brent and Becky's Bulbs in Virginia. The flowers from these bulbs are huge,much larger than the original bulbs I planted so many years ago even though they were also smaller landscape sized bulbs.

Unfortunately, only a single bulb from the new backyard planting survived to bloom in 2014. It did produce 2 flowers that were just as large as the first year flowers,which is a bit unusual for large cupped daffs in my heavy clay soil. I believe the bulbs drowned in the very rainy summer of 2013 even though this site is well drained.. I still think the newer garden spot is better suited to large cupped daffs than the front yard so I will plant more of this 'Carlton' in the autumn.

'Carlton' is one of the most reliable Division 2 daffodils for the south but it also performs well in colder climates.It is hardy in USDA planting Zones 3-8. It is one of the earliest to bloom of this type, sometimes blooming as early as mid February in Zone 7 during warm winter weather.

Like other large cupped and trumpet daffodils it is more floriferous after at least a few weeks of cold winter weather. Carlton was introduced in 1927 and remains one of the most planted daffodils in the 21st Century.
Carlton Large Cupped Daffodil 2013
Carlton in 2013

If you're looking for a reliable classic yellow daffodil,you can't go wrong with Carlton. Plant it near shrubs or trees so the large flowers will be protected from wind,rain and hail and the flowers will last for weeks if the weather stays cool.

'Carlton' is a pretty close to perfect  daffodil that will return for many years,unless of course the bulbs drown from too much rain.

25 March, 2014

Blooming Now: Cyclamineus Hybrids

Cyclaminues Daffodil 'Jetfire'
After a bitterly cold January and February,the daffodil season is now underway in my garden.This year the early season has been dominated by cyclamineus hybrid daffodils.I am now growing 5 different varieties of this type and I hope to add several more in 2015.

After years of mixed success with narcissi from this division,I believe I have finally found a spot where they will thrive and naturalize. This new garden spot on the edge of the woods has moist woodsy soil with a high humus content thanks to the many nearby oak trees. Full sun in the winter and spring and dappled shade from about the middle of May until late November seem to be making them happy so far.

So here is the cyclamineus daffodil lineup listed from the first to flower to the last:

February Gold

Despite the cold,'February Gold' kicked off the daffodil season on February 23rd,the earliest this variety has ever bloomed for me.

'February Gold'
February Gold is an old garden daffodil from the 1920s that is still in wide commercial production almost a century later. It's no mystery why it's still so popular in modern gardens. It's attractive, relatively carefree and it's one of the earliest spring flowers to bloom.

Growing to about a foot in height,February Gold has large, truly golden flowers with long wide trumpets and petals that aren't as reflexed as some others in this group. The blooms are tough,resisting both snow and rain.

I think the flowers of 'February Gold' are attractive even as they age. The petals become more twisted and recurved and the color fades to a soft lemon yellow shade while the trumpet remains deep gold.

The flowers of 'February Gold' lasted for almost a month in my garden until about two inches of rain finally finished them off last weekend.

If all these qualities aren't enough,'February Gold' also has a wonderful scent,most welcome in the dreary days of late winter.


'Tete-a-Tete' is a Division 12 miscellaneous daffodil. It does have N.cyclamineus parentage and it blooms along with it in early spring so I have included it here. Tete-a-Tete also has a cluster-flowering tazetta parent so it often has two flowers per stem,especially in the first couple of years after planting.

Miniature Narcissus 'Tete-a-Tete'
This miniature daffodil has been in my garden for 15 years and it has it has proven itself a dependable performer.. It is often the earliest daffodil to flower. Its first flower of 2014 opened on February 27,three days after 'February Gold.'

I now have plantings of 'Tete-a-Tete' in four different locations in my yard and it has flowered and multiplied well in each spot. I planted 100 bulbs in two drifts at the front of the main flower bed five years ago and they are thriving despite the fact that I have done little to amend the heavy soil in that area. In 2012 I added a couple of dozen to the backyard garden which has a somewhat different soil profile and they are doing fine there also.

Tete-a-Tete is also a perfect daffodil for containers whether planted alone or with other early blooming bulbs and cool season annuals. I have planted it in pots with larger daffodils and with hyacinths and violas for an early burst of late winter and early spring color.

Tete-a-Tete is a true miniature growing only 6-8 inches tall although it begins blooming at only 3-4 inches. This tough but beautiful little charmer has been around for over 60 years and remains one of the most popular garden daffodils in the world. I highly recommend it.


'Jetfire' is a stunning cyclamineus daffodil with highly reflexed golden petals and a long flared trumpet that opens yellow and ages to a fiery red-orange. It grows to a little under a foot tall and really makes a visual impact in the garden,especially when planted in large groups.

This is the second year for 'Jetfire' in my garden and it did not suffer from the “second year slump” that is so common among many daffodils.. Although the flowers were slightly smaller than last year,probably due to the freakish cold,they were just as numerous.

My only disappointment with this year's flowers was that they all opened at once during a warm spell in early March so they haven't lasted as long as I would have liked but that is a minor complaint. In 2013 'Jetfire' produced a second flush of blooms after the first flowers were finished but I don't see any signs of a repeat performance this year. That's probably another side effect of the unsettled weather.

I have really fallen for this daffodil and I can't believe I waited so long to try growing it. For years I saw it listed on websites and in garden catalogs but I avoided ordering it. One reason was that I have had difficulties with daffodils from this division in the past.

Honestly though,the main reason I shied away from this one for so long is that I thought the pictures of it must have been enhanced. After seeing the brilliant flowers in person I can say they are even more colorful than pictures can capture.'Jetfire' is a widely grown and inexpensive daffodil so you can plant as many as your budget will allow.


'Rapture' is a newer cyclamineus hybrid that was introduced in the 1980s. This little golden beauty with perfectly formed flowers is considered to be one of the finest in this division. I have to agree. This daffodil retains the form of the wild N. cyclamineus native to Spain and Portugal. The petals are highly reflexed and the trumpet is long and slightly flared.

I first planted 'Rapture' five years ago and after a little experimenting this narcissus is thriving in the shadier end of the front yard flower bed. 'February Gold' and 'Jack Snipe' both failed in this spot in the past when the spot was a hotter and sunnier in the summer.

I just can't say enough nice things about 'Rapture.' It blooms a couple of weeks later than others of this type and is extremely floriforous. The flowers are long lasting and stand up well to early spring downpours.If you could only grow one narcissus in this group I would recommend this one.



'Itzim' is the newest cyclamineus addition to the garden in 2014. It is similar to 'Jetfire' with golden petals and a trumpet that turns brilliant orange after opening. Both varieties were hybridized by the late American plantsman Grant E. Mitsch.

'Itzim' has the typical cyclamineus form with swept back perianth (petals) and a long slightly flared trumpet. The flowers often point upward while the long petals stream down toward the ground,giving the appearance of a bird in flight..

I was curious about the name Itzim so I investigated a bit. Judging from the appearance of the flower I was expecting it to see that it was named after an exotic bird..

Actually,according to DaffSeek.org Itzim is an anagram of 'Mitzi' which was this daffodil's original name.

Time will tell whether or not 'Itzim' will be a good naturalizer but I have no reason to believe it won't be as hardy as the other daffodils in this group. 'Itzim' has just begun to bloom so I've only taken a few pictures of it and so far I don't think any of the images truly does justice to its unique beauty.

The cyclamineus hybrids have gone from an iffy group to being the stars of my early spring garden in the last few years. I plan to increase my plantings of the best performers and there are several nice white flowered cultivars I would like to add to my collection for 2015.

After a slow start,the early daffodil season is quickly morphing into the mid season now. Finally, a few large cup and trumpet daffodils are blooming and the mid season triandrus and tazetta hybrids are about to come on strong in the next few days. Stay tuned for more daffodil reports throughout the spring.

21 March, 2014

At Last,Spring Has Arrived!

Cyclamineus Daffodil 'Jetfire'

Spring has finally sprung! The cold weather is keeping an icy grip on much of the USA but the daffodils are getting the last laugh. After a slow start I'm finally getting some serious daffodil action in my Zone 7 garden. The cyclamineus group has emerged as the dominant early season narcissus in 2014. A few trumpets and large cup types are also making their appearances now,a little later than usual because of the bitter cold winter..The mid season daffs are right on schedule and beginning to come on strong. Tazetta daffodils 'Avalanche' and 'Geranium' are beginning to bloom now and the triandrus hybrids and early jonquils will not be far behind. My blog posts and pictures will be more frequent over the next few weeks. If you haven't already, be sure to "Like" the All About Daffodils Facebook Page. I am sharing daffodil pictures and articles from all over the world there so if you enjoy daffodils you will enjoy the page. If you have daffodil pictures you can post or link to them there. Also, you can follow me on Tumblr. If you share your photos on Tumblr,Twitter,FB Google+ or Pinterest be sure to tag them with #daffodils #daffodil #jonquil or #narcissus and I will share  as many of them as I can. Hope everyone has a great weekend and a happy Spring.

14 March, 2014

Daffodil Hill in Volcano,CA Opens To Visitors

Daffodil Hill at McLaughlin Ranch in Volcano,California is now open to visitors for the 2014 season. Each March and April thousands of people visit the tiny town near Jackson to see the daffodils that have bloomed there since the mid 19th Century.

Daffodil Hill in Amadour County
Martin Ryan and his brothers own the McLaughlin Ranch and continue to maintain the daffodils.The 540 acre ranch was was purchased by Ryan's newlywed great grandparents Arthur and Lizzie McLaughlin in 1887. Daffodils were already growing on the property.

The original owner,homesteader Pete Denzer was an immigrant from the Netherlands. He planted the first narcissus bulbs on the hill in the mid 1800s. Some locals still say Denzer actually brought the bulbs with him from Holland.

The McLaughlins decided to maintain the daffodil planting and their descendants continue to care for the flowers and add to the display. Daffodil Hill first opened to the public in 1940. Last Autumn 20,000 new bulbs were planted adding to the 300,000 already growing on the site.

Daffodil Hill will remain open until mid-April. Admission is free.


"Daffodil Hill an explosion of color in town of Volcano" SFGate.com February 19,2014
Interview with McLaughlin Ranch co-owner Martin Ryan and tips on places to eat and stay near Volcano.

Daffodil Hill Facebook Page

Photo credit:
"Daffodil Hill in Amadour County" by agunther. Licensed under. Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

McLaughlin's Daffodil Hill, Volcano, CA, March 2013 by Gerald Kergan

10 March, 2014

My Public Apology To February Gold

My Dearest February Gold,
I certainly had no idea when I wrote you that goodbye letter two years ago that I would ever see you in my garden again. I was really at the end of my rope then.

After giving you so many choice garden spots over several years only to see each one turn into a bog or a mini desert, I really thought February Gold was just not a good fit for my garden. So,in frustration,I gave up on you. I was wrong. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.

When the last home I gave you turned into a mud hole within a month,I was sure you were a goner. Even though you bloomed nicely that year I really didn't believe you would survive that hot,rainy spring and

Imagine my amazement when I saw your shoots poking up through that green muck the next spring. You must believe that I never would have left you there for another season if I had known you had survived. You had fought so hard to come back so I had to do something to try to save you.

Even though it was the wrong time of year to do it and I knew I was taking a huge risk,I took you out of that little swamp right then and there. I had found a great new spot on the edge of the woods where other members of the Cyclamineus family have been happy..Frankly I wasn't optimistic given our history but I couldn't just let you drown so I plopped you into the new garden spot.

Much to my my amazement your leaves stayed healthy and green throughout the 2013 growing season. I am so delighted you have returned this year,looking better than ever. Your blooms are nice and large if not numerous.

I never noticed you having a much of a scent before but this year I have been able to smell your sweet aroma from over 20 feet away. It has boosted my spirit in these last bitter cold days of the harshest winter in decades winter.

Best of all,for the first time ever you actually bloomed in February and you were the first daffodil of 2014 to bloom in the entire garden. Your first flower opened a full week ahead of 'Tete-a-Tete' and 'Jefire.'

I am so happy to say that 'February Gold'  is still an important daffodil in my garden. I hope your renewed floral display means you are happy in your new home. It's as close to a European woodland meadow as you will find in the new world. I hope my winter is interrupted by your charming,sweetly scented yellow flowers for many years to come.

I hope you will accept my apology,Feb.Welcome back.