Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The daffodil season continues...

The daffodil season continues here. The little white-flowered hoop petticoat daffodils are blooming. I’m not the only one enjoying them: as soon as the buds begin to swell, little snails move in and feast of the fresh flowers. Next May we will have lived in this house for fifty years. We did not have snails until about three years ago. They probably came in with nursery stock; by now they have made themselves very much at home.

These snails bring back a childhood memory: when I was six or seven years old, I met a neighbor who kept aquarium fish. I told him about the snails I had seen around our doorsteps, and he asked me to collect some for his aquarium fish. When I gave him the snails, he let me watch as he dumped them into the aquarium and the fish (gouramis as I recall) quickly snapped them up. There was another lesson here, too: I learned the association between snails and chalky sites. The snails gathered around the door stoops which were of concrete poured only a year or so previously.

What are these little daffodils? They came under the name Narcissus albidus ver. foliosus, but current usage makes the name albidus a synonym of one of the forms of Narcissus pseudonarcissus, a very different daffodil indeed. The name Narcissus foliosus is currently accepted, and it’s used for those little white-flowered hoop petticoat daffodils from northwestern Africa once called Narcissus monophyllus. This is probably what the daffodils blooming now are, although there is a chance that they are forms of the very similar European Narcissus cantabricus. Whatever they are, I’m glad to have them.

Also in bloom is one of the white-flowered Narcissus tazetta. These are noted for their intense, potent fragrance. If they are kept cool, one flower cluster can bloom for weeks. To appreciate what a treasure these are, grow them in a cold frame as cold (but above freezing) as possible. A light freeze will probably not damage them. Then, every time you open the cold frame you will be enveloped in a cloud of fragrance.

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