30 April, 2013

2013:The Year of Tete-a-Tete

Tete-a-Tete Miniature Daffodil
Tete-a-Tete is often named as the most popular daffodil in the world. I'm not sure if that claim comes from growers,retailers or a survey of gardeners but I don't doubt that it's true. A twitter friend asked me the other day which daffodil I would recommend to someone who could only grow one. My answer was Tete-a-Tete,an early bloomer introduced in 1949, because in my opinion it is one of the easiest to grow and most consistent daffodils on the market today. It grows well in the garden and in containers. It will grow in the Far North and in the Deep South. As long as it's not in standing water,this little daffodil is tolerant of a wide variety of soil conditions.

The Somewhat Mysterious Origins of Tete-a-Tete 

Because of its mixed parentage Tete-a-Tete is classified as a Division 12 miscellaneous daffodil of garden origin. According to an article on  BotanyBoy.org, Tete-a-Tete is an allotriploid hybrid,meaning it has more than two ancestral parents and an extra pair of chromosomes. N.'cyclataz',an heirloom hybrid of N.tazetta 'Grand Soleil D'or' and N. cyclamineus was revealed by testing to be the seed parent of Tete-a-Tete. Its pollen parent remains unknown because Tete-a-Tete was a happy accident rather than the result of an intentional cross by a daffodil breeder. Because its DNA reveals a lot of cyclamineus gene markers it seems likely that the pollen parent was also a cyclamineus type,either the species or a garden hybrid.

Tete-a-Tete definitely has the typical flower form of a cyclamineus daffodil with reflexed petals and long cups. Like its tazetta ancestors and unlike its cyclamineus parent Tete-a-Tete blooms in clusters, especially the first year after planting.

Tete-a-Tete is a Proven Garden Performer

I have grown Tete-a-Tete since 1999 and the original patch still blooms faithfully every year. It was the only daffodil to escape unscathed when my garden was pretty much destroyed by storms over the last few years. Three years ago I added another 100 bulbs to the front of the flower bed and they have also established nicely.

Tete-a-Tete Daffodils Planted In 1999
I decided to start a new daffodil garden last fall. The new spot is heavily wooded but receives bright sun all day from November to May. I believe this area will be perfect for early blooming daffodils. I planted 25 bulbs each of Tete-a-Tete,Carlton,Ice Follies,and Jetfire and ten bulbs of Dutch Master and all bloomed beautifully. Of course all flowering bulbs will bloom well the first year after planting but I know I can depend on Tete-a-Tete to return year after year even if I forget to divide or fertilize.

Tete-a-Tete is usually the first daffodil to bloom in my garden and 2013 was no exception. I was lucky enough to have this daffodil in bloom during the early ,mid-season and late blooming periods this year. Rainy,weather delayed my autumn bulb planting and many did not make it to the garden until a week before Christmas.The new bulbs bloomed a few weeks later than normal pushing the blooms well into the mid season.

In mid January I found a box of unidentified bulbs behind a book shelf. These were obviously leftovers from fall planting. There were about a dozen of them and they were all alive so I planted them in an old,unattractive plastic pot I had lying around. The bulbs turned out to be Ice Follies and Tete-a-Tete. They began blooming around the first of April. Cool conditions kept the flowers coming until April 20th.

Tete-a-Tete Is A Foolproof Choice For the Daffodil Garden and Containers

If you are looking for a tough,enduring daffodil that is easy to establish,you can't make a better choice than Tete-a-Tete. Because of its popularity Tete-a-Tete is widely grown and can be found in large quantities at a reasonable price either locally or online.

Tete-a-Tete also performs beautifully as a container plant either alone or in a mixed planting with larger daffodils,tulips or hyacinths and smaller bulbs like crocus,iris reticulata and scilla. Pansies and violas also make great container mates for miniature daffodils.

Plant lots and lots of these little bulbs this fall and  and you will not be disappointed with the late winter show they will give you. Plant some a little later than the normal daffodil planting time to extend the Tete-a-Tete season.

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