REPLY2: [pbs] Smaller Narcissus - PBS and Alpine Topic of the Week
Thu, 12 Feb 2004 15:13:41 PST
In a message dated 12-Feb-04 7:42:44 AM Pacific Standard Time, writes:

> Subj: Re: [pbs] Smaller Narcissus - PBS and Alpine Topic of the Week 
> Date: 12-Feb-04 7:42:44 AM Pacific Standard Time

Mary Sue, et al ~

> I was interested in reading about Narcissus rupicola in both introductions 
> since that was a recent offering to the BX from Ernie O'Byrne. So this 
> sentence caught my eye.
> <<>This is not particularly easy to grow in captivity, although, when happy, 
> it can be long lived for a species.<>>
> And Nancy suggested growing this in a screen house. Since it is under cover 
> of snow, will it be cold enough for me to be able to grow it? Or should I be 
> sharing my BX seeds with someone else?
> Dave, could you or others tell us your secret of growing Narcissus from seed 
> to flowering size?

I use one gallon, plastic nursery cans and a gritty mix made up of part of 
the indigenous soil, pumice and a gritty potting soil.  I'll add more humus for 
N. cyclamineus.  The pots are kept in the shade for the rest of summer and 
lightly watered, more heavily during the winter months (rainfall if set into the 
soil or from a hose if not submerged).  It's always a pleasant surprise when 
around now the hair-like leaves emerge here in California from the pots of the 
more valuable ones that I bring back with me for the winter.  Those leaves are 
so fine they look for all the world like green hair.  As the days lengthen, 
the pots get increasing amounts of sun, although not full sun the first season. 
 I place the pot inside the next size up to protect it from the sun's heat; 
there is usually a good inch all around the pot (for air movement) containing 
the seedlings.

The crucial thing with daffodil seed is to plant it as soon as the pod 
ripens.  I will get the cyclamineus seed into the soil within a few days of 
collecting the pods.  This is the way 'ol Ma Nature does it and I figure she knows a 
good many things I don't.  Emulating her has proven successful.

Only one species demands the soil be quite damp and cool during dormancy and 
that is N. cyclamineus.  If the soil dries out, the bulbs will die.  For 
nearly all of the others, I simply set the pots under cover shaded from the sun and 
leave them until I start watering them in fall.  If these are pots that I 
lift from the soil out in the open where they've spent the growing season, the 
soil is usually wet enough that it takes many weeks to dry out.  If the species 
are grown in the field, I will often shade the soil to prevent it from heating 
in the dog days of summer.  Thus, it remains dryish and not as warm as the 
soil outside of the protected area (a sheet of plywood set on bricks).

For a number of years early on, I left those pots (unwatered) out in the 
midday sun to "bake" as was the "commonly accepted wisdom" for getting these 
things to bloom regularly.  I don't recall they did as well as when there was a bit 
of moisture in the root zone.  Narcissus will often keep a few of the 
previous season's roots alive during dormancy or the contractile roots that often 
sprout will also stay alive for a long time afterward.

Jim Wells, a noted grower of species and miniatures (nearly everything in a 
greenhouse), used to unpot everything each year and lay the cleaned bulbs out 
on the surface of the dry soil and cover over the pots with several layers of 
newspaper until time to replant.  He was quite successful with this method.  He 
often complained that it was impossible to find the right kind of soil, i.e., 
the open fibrous "loam" that results when one piles up layers of sod for a 
year to decompose.  He also dusted each bulb with a mixture of fungicide powders 
(e.g., Captan, Benlate, etc.) before replanting.  It was his point of view 
that this was necessary to bring basal rot under control.  As far as I know, all 
of his bulbs went through the dormant season dry.  The weakest bulbs 
succumbed and were removed and the strongest survived to multiply.  Like many growers, 
his desire was to develop seed grown strains of the species.  The nearly 
insurmountable problem is always where and how to obtain most of them!!  Even so 
noted a personage as this gentlemen was not always successful in his quest!

The Barwick (bulbocodium x cantabricus) hybrids have always done better both 
under cover and in the open when planted rather deeper than normal and with 
dampness present in the root zone during "dormancy."

> When I lived in Stockton daffodils were one of the best performers in my 
> garden, flowering 
> well and increasing. 

Sid DuBose, one of the more noted amateur daffodil hybridizers in this 
country, has lived in the Stockton area for many years.  At one time, he had a 
considerable daffodil patch that resulted from his hybridizing efforts.

> I always attributed lack of bloom to the lack of sun. 

Daffodils want full sun for best results but will grow with variable amounts 
of shade.  Blooming falls off, of course, with decreasing sunlight.  Often, 
one will get blooms only every other year.  If a bulb has been parasitized by 
the large bulb fly, there will often sprout small pieces of the secondary 
meristem the following spring that will eventually bloom again.

> My records show Narcissus cantabricus blooming in October, what he called 
> Narcissus 
> bulbocodium monophyllus (which Dave tells me might best be called N. 
> cantabricus instead since it has white flowers) blooming December and January, N. 
> romieuxii blooming in December and January, and N. romieuxii var. zaianicus 
> still blooming from a January start so I've had continuous bloom in one pot or 
> the other for a long time. I've not tried any of these in the ground, however.

I know of no bulbocodium species that blooms in the fall.  cantabricus, 
however, does, from late fall through the winter months.  One of my favorites has 
always been zaianicus forma lutescens with its frilly coronas and evanescent 
lemon color.  Because of the cool temps this time of the year, the flowers will 
last for weeks protected from the weather.

One newer hybrid that I've grown for a couple of years now is Barwick's 
'Gadget' (Inspector GADGET).  Very floriferous and the most brilliant deep 
golden-yellow!  Well worth seeking out as it has been a good doer and bloomer covering 
its leaves with a mass of flowers in late winter.

Many (if not most) of these species really don't require weather that is that 
cold.  Temps in the forties/high thirties for most of the winter months 
should suffice when the soil should be kept quite damp, particularly when the 
leaves appear.  

I have long been of the opinion that all of the miniature hybrids (and those 
species multiplied asexually) are infected with one, or more, of the viruses 
which infect the genus Narcissus and is the basic reason so many of them can be 
such indifferent growers for so many.  The way out of this dilemma is to 
obtain several of the species and make your own hybrids. It's a very rewarding 
pastime and you'll be pleased with the results.

Dave Karnstedt

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