Narcissus bulbocodium in Northern gardens

Jane McGary
Thu, 07 Nov 2013 10:45:32 PST
An important thing to know about Narcissus bulbocodium is that it has 
a number of different populations, some of which are distinguished as 
subspecies or varieties. According to John Blanchard's useful book 
"Narcissus: A Guide to Wild Daffodils," these different populations 
grow in distinctly different habitats. The type, for instance 
"grow[s] in short turf, often very wet, at lower levels, but high on 
the Serra da Estrela they are in very gritty acid, almost grassless 
soil." Var. nivalis is a plant of alpine meadows where it would 
experience frost and snowmelt. Var. conspicuus of western Europe 
"prefer[s] a damp acid soil." Var. pallidus is from the Atlas 
Mountains and (I find) tolerates more summer drying. Var. graellsii 
from Spain "always seems to grow on level turf on acid soil, often 
dryish but sometimes quite wet." N. obesus, or subsp. obesus, is said 
to be more lime-tolerant, but I have found it one of the best for 
growing outside in the Pacific Northwest; mine are a clone originally 
sent to the PNW from England in the 1960s.

I don't know what 'Golden Bells' may be, but I suppose it's from the 
western European types like var. conspicuus. It is more likely than 
the others to produce more than one flower per stem, and it has erect 
foliage. It persisted in a warm, dry but irrigated spot in my former 
garden for many years. I did not put it with the bulb collection 
because I was afraid of introducing virus into my seed-grown narcissi.

It is interesting to grow a wide range of these subspecies, 
varieties, or populations because you get a long period of bloom: 
nivalis and praecox come first, then pallidus, and later obesus and 
finally graellsii. Narcissus are very easy to grow from seed and 
these little ones can flower the third year. Most of mine came from 
the Archibalds' seed lists and many of those were collections by Blanchard.

I think most of them can stand plenty of water during their growing 
season as long as the soil is well drained.

Jane McGary
Portland, Oregon, USA

At 06:00 PM 11/6/2013, you wrote:
>Peter is correct in his assessment of Narcissus bulbocodium culture.   I
>raise N. bulbocodium  outside in pots, AND in the ground, but out of direct
>heavy rain, which, for Seattle gardeners, is the key to may Mediterranean
>plants and bulbs.  These bulbs are being raised in USDA zone 8b, so
>considerably milder than zone 5-6.   The soil is quite well drained.  It
>just may not be the best species for your climate unless you have a cool
>Rick K

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