Winter flowers: Narcissus
This post is part of a series on winter flowers that we grow on the farm and enjoy.
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
Are there words that take you back in time? I wrote about this poem in a post last year. It was integral to my journey of adolescence and figuring my way through middle school. With my own kids in middle school now, I remember this poem fondly and think of it when I harvest daffodils.
This last fall, I planted over 2,000 narcissus bulbs on our small farm property in over 20 varieties. As narcissus are perennial and spread, I am looking forward to having a crowd or host of golden daffodils this spring. (Daffodil is a flower within the genus narcissus). In fact, some varieties have already begun to sprout and bloom.
Growing up, I don't remember seeing a lot of daffodils. When we moved to this beautiful area in North Carolina with real winters and amazing springs, I saw them pop up everywhere: on roadsides, in yards, in gullies, in flower beds. Mostly, I saw the ubiquitous springy, happy yellow blooms. I was delighted. My son planted bags of daffodil bulbs for me many years ago in our own yard, and they continue to bloom each year, usually in mid to late March. When I began my journey as a flower farmer, I learned that there were many other varieties of narcissus available, varieties of different colors, scents, and sizes. In fact, when we began the farm on the land near our home, there was a variety of narcissus growing wild in one section of field. It continues to spread each year. I have transplanted that narcissus into my own yard.
Care and maintenance
Narcissus are perennial bulbs. They are deer resistant and easy to maintain. Plant bulbs (tip up) in the fall in a sunny spot either in individual holes 2 inches deeper than the bulb is tall or in trenches of the same depth. Make sure the soil is well-draining.
Make sure to leave the leaves on the plant, even after harvesting the flower, so that the plant can continue to receive light and photosynthesize to prepare to flower for the next year. When the leaves have turned yellow and wilted, you can cut them back. Mulch bulbs well.
For the longest vase life, harvest flowers when they are at the "gooseneck" stage (see photo). To harvest flowers, pull the stem at the base of the plant. The stem will stretch and pop off, giving you the longest stem possible. Put flowers in water with a floral conditioner. Do not mix narcissus with other flowers until the stem has sealed (2-3 hours). The stem exudes a sap that will shorten the vase life of other flowers. Do not recut the narcissus when mixed with other flowers.
Bulbs will continue to multiply over the years. You can dig up a clump, divide it, and plant it after the leaves have faded. Before you know it, you will have your own host of golden daffodils.
Other posts you may find helpful:
Winter Flowers: Flowering shrubs
Five Helpful Tools for the Garden