With this somewhat wacky winter weather we have been experiencing it is not too surprising that daffodils started blooming in late January. As you drive along Cherokee County highways mass blooming beds of daffodils that have naturalized in semi-wooded and semi-shady areas provide bright yellow colors to a drab landscape. The one benefit of the cooler but not harsh colder temperatures is that the blooming of these daffodil patches has been prolonged for a couple of weeks. The blooming period started with those daffodils that had south and southeastern exposure — “microclimate” — because the soil was warming up because of the sunlight.
Some of the below-freezing night temperatures we have experienced have not affected the daffodil buds. Narcissus and most other spring bulbs are very cold-tolerant. Exposure of the emergent foliage to cold weather usually is limited to some yellowing or browning of the foliage. Flower buds are generally well protected below the soil. Plants with a 2 to 3-inch layer of mulch are even less likely to be damaged by the cold.
Well, what do you call these bulbs? Narcissus is the generic botanical name given to these plants when formally described by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in his Species Plantarum (1753). Daffodils and jonquils are also names used. One reference I looked at indicated that folks in the southern states are more inclined to call them jonquils. The exact origin of the name Narcissus is unknown from ancient history. One source indicated that is “often linked to a Greek word for intoxicated (narcotic) and It is also often associated with the Greek legend of Narcissus, the myth of the youth of that name who fell in love with his own reflection. The English word “daffodil” appears to be derived from “asphodel,” with which it was commonly compared.”
The New York Botanical Garden comments that “The word “narcissus” is derived from the Greek word narke, meaning numbness (also the root of the word narcotic); the flower may have been named thus because of the intoxicating fragrance of some species. Others associate the name with the poisonous nature of the bulbs and flowers, a natural defense against squirrels and deer.
In England the plants commonly were known as daffodils. This term was carried to other countries by English-speaking people. Jonquil refers to a specific kind of narcissus and is not correct for the group in general. True jonquils have reed-like leaves and fragrant flowers. Narcissus is the correct botanical name for the genus; daffodil is the correct common name for all members of the genus; and jonquil correctly refers to one particular division. The cultural requirements for all divisions are essentially identical, but the size, color, and time of bloom will vary.
Narcissi are native to Europe, North Africa, Western Asia, and the Mediterranean region. The Iberian Peninsula and the mountains of Morocco and Algeria are home to the majority of Narcissus species. They were well-known in ancient civilizations, both medicinally and botanically.
Narcissus are members of the “Amaryllis” plant family. According to the American Daffodil Society, “Depending on which botanist you talk to, there are between 40 and 200 different daffodil species, subspecies or varieties of species and over 32,000 registered cultivars (named hybrids) divided among the thirteen divisions of the official classification system.”
Although known and grown from antiquity, daffodils are only a recent fashion for gardens. They did not become popular as ornamentals until the late 1800s. Daffodils are easy to grow and not fussy as to site requirements. They are one of the most vigorous and colorful flowers of spring. With good drainage, they thrive in most soils. They give the best flower display when grown in full sun.
Narcissi are very long-lived in the landscape. Since there are early, mid-season, and late-season Narcissi cultivars, to get the best flower display, plant groupings of all three seasonal types. After Linda and I moved to Canton 10 years ago I bought the “hills and dales” Narcissi bulb collection from Gibbs Garden and planted them in the landscape.
As with all types of bulbs, gardeners should leave the foliage intact after blooming. Don’t remove the old foliage until it has yellowed. The foliage produces food for the bulbs to bloom in the next season. Got an email from Gibbs Gardens — they are opening up on March 1! Go and enjoy that amazing multi-week daffodil display.
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