Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
Article image
This article displays in one automatically-generated column. View the full page to see article in its original form.

DAFFODILS.

! (Br A. Wwsos, IT.A., Dvsmvf.) , j Are your columns too august to admit a causerie on so trivial a subject oe a common garden flower? Since poets have, found the daffodil worthy of their pains (sco Shakespeare, Herrick, and Wowisworth passim) may not a plain grower be allowed to maunder about his flower in simple pedestrian prose? The daffodil of late may even claim to have reached the dignity of a commercial topic, if what I am told in all seriousness be true, that a syndicate has been formed in Canterbury to purchase fro*_n a well-known English hybric-iser his best varieties of narcissus for distribution in this colony. This looks iiko business, and I trust the syndicata may prosper, so that if we cannot all of us possess these splendid.' daffodils, we may all, at least, be privileged to see them. I confess I am sceptical about the syndicate, but .the foot that such a thing, should be thought practicable seems to indicate that daffodil growing in this country is reaching the stage of acute erase. I have myself been a grower of the; daffodil from those oldfasluoned days when ifc was regarded as a somewhat vulgar flower, compared, for instance, with a Mrs Pollock pelargonium (where could one get a Mrs Pollock now?}, and I have seen its **grecnery-yallery" beauty gradually take hold of this community, till now the flower fairly divides ths honours with the rose and the chrysanthemum—if ib is not actually at the present moment the most in vogue of the three, first, as it were, among its peers. Bulbous things of all kinds seem to mo to have an element of charm that woody and shrubby things lack. A rose, for instance, ms_tchl«ss as.it is when crowned with t3ie full beauty of its blossoms, is not an attractive thing en deshabille; at least, not the florist's rose, a stubby thing, cut back to the quick, and intended to pro-' duce t wo or three blooms for exhibition purposes, or, possibly, only one. Ido nob deny that the daffodil also has its period of deshiv bills, when it cumbers the -ground with tangles of faded foliage, far from attractive; but the period is short, for most of the ungainly timo is spent in .modest retirement beneath the soil, in preparation for the glorious resurrection of the spring.

Speaking for myself, I do not find it an unmj-sed good that the daffodil lias become the flower of fashion, though, no i doubt, this is good for trade. As soon as a flower gets to be a.subject of competition, it becomes vulgarised, so that I find myself sometimes thinking regretfully of the time when the was not suoh a favourite as it is when I was myself-the only grower within a respectable radius of- msy own garden, and was thought to possess an. extensive collection because I could muster between twenty and thirty varieties. ' Eheu f ugacesj! Time is on the wing, as I am. reminded by coming across an old account for daffodil bulbs from Ban* and Sons, of Covent Garden, or, rather, Barr and Sugden* as the firm was then, the said bill dating some eighteen years back. The list includes thirtyone varieties, and is in the handwriting of Mr Peter Baar, who has done more than any man living, perhaps, to popularise the daffodil. It as interesting'and amusing to go through the list. In no "case is the order for mors than one bulb of each variety. Th© list includes such kinds as Cernuus, Empress, . Albicans, Masimus, Poeticus recurvus, | Poeticus of Haworth, Poeticus poefcarum, and LeecLsi amabdlis- Some of these', single , bulbs have peopled my own "garden, and ' other gardens, with a numerous progeny. Empress, once solitary in her state, and regarded as something rare and imperial, lias grown to a multitude of impresses, wlp-st-Poetious recurvus is now but- a beautiful weed.. Poeticus' p-te_#r_uh,. on * tihe other' hand, of which) I got one bulb at the same time, is little, more than a. single bulb still.' Each" season as "it' shows its '"wan 'face' and. brj2li_i_at .1 tWrikHha/fc season-is , going to be its but if'it does nc+« thrive it continue*, at .least,'to live** The whole consignment of thirty-ono varieties, including to the modest total of'_Bl-^a' sum' which' a daffodil syndicate would probably consider a moderate -price' for a* single "bulb.' Emperor, strange,to cay, is not on tihe list, ] so that I am -unable, to say ..whence; came my stool: of .variety/ '."' ' - ■ , The'daffodil,'! fear, is, fast becoming a, florist's flower, which "means that, it is on the way to ibelng judged by arbitrary and exacting standards, a thing that, is pretty sure to ' happen whan ». flower is largely hybridised. The-hybridiser sets hikaself certain things to j strive for—sise, strength of constitution, depth and purity of colour,' proportion of the relative parts, andr so «_, and. any' Sowers ' that do not reach the required staaidard are the rubbdsh heap. The iime wall, corns, and is pirorbiwbly not far away, wh.m. the natural forms of, tha flower, as it is fcUnd on the mountain slopes, of France and Spain, .will bo entirely superseded by finer forms," produced by artificial c_roe__-fertilis_> tion.". Yet for tbe possessors of certain gar. dens the natural species of plants .have a special charm of their own,. though they may ha distanced in splendour'by the florist's artificial varieties. -, Tihe small and fugacious single rose of the Pyrenees,' for -instance, appeals to some mor* strongly than. the flower that is regarded as the supreme triumph of'tbe nose-gi-ower, the SDlendid Marechal Neil. Again, as to the crocus, though I much affect the whole crocus tribe, a minute species from the mountains of Greece or.Asia Minor has for m_,a greater value than the largest and finest variety produced by tbe Dutch florist. This partiality for species is paxibsbly the instinct of the botanist—or ■ botanist manque— triumphing over that of the gardener; partly that, and .partly, also, that one has schooled one's self to such a JBpatls in nature as to believe that, whatever .nature does is done in the best possible way. There can be no doubt, however, that nature, if sure and faultless in tho long run, ia slow in her processes. She trusts too much to chance.' Man, being the impatient creature he is. and not altogether unintelligent, hurries the old mother up, and expedites her processes. Perhaps no better instance could be cited of the results of man's interference with the processes of nature than the .volution of the pansy. Less than a century ago tihe pansy, as we know; it, did sot exist. No doubt there was a stereotyped weed, "freaked with jet," that did duty aa a pansy in the time of Shakespeare and of Milton, but no more like the splendid flowers of to-day than a hedge crab is like a ribston pippin. One has only to take up any old illrt. trated book of gardening, say, of the thirties, to see that the most prized -paxtsies of that time, though a great advnce on the Viola tricolor, would now be regarded an beneath contempt. So it- will bs soma day with the daffodil. Thus far, a daffodil'ia a daffodil,; presently, no flower will -be worthy of the name that cannot meet tbe exacting conditions of the florist.

I uo not <r_afess to speak'of plants with any bin. the most superficial knowledge, of their botany, but no ona can havemueh' to do with the narcissui- withont becoming i interested in its -plan ~of, structijrie, if sor, no other reason, becaiise it is in certain respects perplexing. Plants grouped under' one order ought to have-a common scheme of construction; yet what other Amarvllid genus presents homblogues to certain salient parts of the narcissus. Style, stamens, and all that apparatus of reproduction are, I

dare say, simple enough, butt I should be glad if sows botanist would give aa intelgMe explanation of the mutual, relation of the .parts known to growers as "crown"' and '"pc-rianti--." Tho _ri»i-_ part of eve-ry narcissus flower is an elongated tube, more or less funnei--»haped; that is, expanded towards the moiith. Tha object of this tub© is apparent enough: it is the sheath to protect the delicate reproductive organs within. But from this ornamental tube sometimes at if.s mouth, as in N. poetic-is, sometimes haT-way up its length, as in N. pseudo-narcissus, ttere projects a flounce of oiiuun.iUal scollops, sy_ m number, which flounce growers ca_!l the".perianth," a term that explains it? position, but not iris purpose. These scollops are not in any way articulated to the. tube; they grow out of it, and form -part ot it. What one would liko tbe botsniat to explain is the function of the flounce. What .purpose does it serve in lii© economy of tihe plant, and what is its 'homologae in other amaryllids? As to tho species of narcissi, he would be a rash botanis-t who would venture to affirm what and how many they are. If a sjfecies is determined "by the greater stability of its characters," and the absence of individuals intermediate between the related groups"—that is, if it is held that no two plants of a genus should be considered species, which will cross and produce \ forms intermediate between the other two, then there are very few specaes of narcissi; half a dozen at the outside, if indeed the genus does not consist of a single species. To the mero grower, however, this is a matter of little importance, inasmuch as he has a handy, if inaccurate, d_i-.-Mca.-kMi, depending on the relative prominence and develop-neiic of,the crown and perianth. Natural species are not attractive to the ordinary gardener j they are not "showy" enough, and they do not present doublo forms, four which the gua-dener, pure and simple, has an affection. Tho so-called species of narcissi will, therefore, have the necessary room and attention, given them only in die garden of tbe horticulturist, who is compounded in .equal parts of botanist, gardener, and colieetoivnot much, perhaps, oi any one of the three, but a little of all. Thus, I find myself treasuring a daffodil Galled Narcissus pseudonarcissus, and taking some trouble to make it grow, but, if I were asked why 1* value it, I should find "it difficult to give any better reason /than that ifc is reputed a species indigenous to England, is not easy . to grow, and is called the "Lent Lily/ ai pretty sentimental name, with a sub-eccle-siastical flavour. I am obliged to confess that as a flower the Lent Lily is I have myself produced Irom seed much better things even in its own style, and I have no hesitation jn saying that if Nature had kept pace with the modem spirit of progress, "she would long ere this have swept the Lent 'Lily into her limbo of apprentice efforts. Though Nature ia not" rapidly progressive herself, it is astonishing how submissive the old grandmother is to those of her progeny who would teach her to suck eggs, ekwaie sis or seven years ago I ventured my-ilf, with some diffidence, to suggest an improvement in. her wwy of -reproducing daffodils. I proposed that instead, cf trusting to the ■uncertain agenoy of stray. bret.__a ana humble bees she should allow mo to ensure the necessary combination., with a .camel-hair brush. The mode of opuution is simplicity itself. You dscido tli.it the virtues of one daffodil b& advantageously combined - with thosa ofl another to produce a tertitun quid that, shall be "different from, either, and possibly possess the virtues of both. Take, as an extreme. instance, the two daffodils called Emperor atid'Cydaminei_».- . The first is a large/ bold, stately flower; tho other is a quaint miniature" form, with its segments reflexed like the petals of a- cyclamen. you transfer the pollen of the one daffodil to tbe stigma of the other, and if good seed results. the offspring will probably be a combination of the two forms— a sinallerEmperorwithreflexed petals, or a larger Cyclaminetis, with S-gments lees ' recurved; something, perhaps, m the way of Queen of Spain. Oi* if you" should think that Emperor, fine flow-o* as it is, is a little "washed out" in the colour" of its segments, which is my own doubtful critic* ism of this beautiful flower, you' mayliopa by crossing it with Moximus to get a flower, .-with the fine form of>the one daffodil, and the "rich colour of the other, ■■ . ~ Those yyihQ have much eiperienoe withi the".daffodil' will,'probably' have observed that the.natural'foam's—that is, thosa col.lected.in i&j3ir<_*_atural hatbitat---__re gener---ally ■speaking more difficult to manage fihaa varieties"artificially produced by gardeners;: or .if-' not, actually difficult to - crow, ■ yet , not .readily increased by offsets of-the ty_bsj which means that- with- these wildlings' of nature you must take- Nature's" methods. . |3he* cannot'go,, spado in hand, over 'her mountain-sides and meadows, digging up her bulbs and dibbling them out for increase.* -■ Her way is by seeding. To make sure that one seed will grow, she sows h. htmdred; And. whberver'would-grow these interesting- wild forms must tallow her exaSmplel f v/ith -the', "certain hope, however, of a much la-*ger return than Nature's one per cent;''- The psr contra ol all this is that many of the artificial blends produced by.'.tihe.,'gardener,'do not seed at - all. ■Somfe.proditOß .seed in.fair abundance, but at'least in. my experience, .zhpoluMy -decline to fo_3__.-seed, the seedorgans in these .being-, probably in some iat_u,.'Way -defective: ■-, . .- •"- - Another-consideration that enters Jargely into hybridising is ,tHe matter of constitution. Many daffodils,' as "every grower knows;.though beautiful md. desirable forms in.themselves, are so.'.we-uk in. constitution that they die .away in course of- time, or' perhaps eontriya merely to : without increasing.- Now, by .seeding varieties of this kind-, there is every hope of raising varieties posse&slng all- the attraataocs. oi ■ the parent, with a robu?jt constitution into the bargain,' _a»d thi? becomes more likely if the variety in question,is. cross-fertilised -with pollen from-a. variety stronger than - -itself - - As ;a» - inistaiace of What majy bo dose-in this way, I mijskt xnatanoa tho beautiful daffodil known as Pallidus praeco-C-Everyone would'gladly possess-an abundance of such a flower as this. English growers find it a difficult subject, and to supply the. annual demand ■ dealers ibave to obtain supplies* each season from Spain,, which probably nseani. that within, a measur- - able sp-tce of time the Variety'will be ex--tinct, Mjr own, experience! of t____..d*_B-0--dil is that it will.live a_ad bif-om from year to yeacc, but will give'no bulb in- - crease. | It is satisfactory, tbei_fore, to • find among my «eed_i__.g3 several daffodils of this variety, replicas of the parent ia all their features except that they are even prettier and appsareatily more robust. It may he that the daffodils of the ftEtae will ' edipse in splendour the daffodils of the present, though it requires a little imagination to conceive how some of- our presen* flowers could ,_e bettesred. I harpe not imagination enough to .pkrfcore e_o.yt_.ing * more charming in its quaint high-sliouldered fashion than Colleen Bawn, sturdier and header than Sia. Watktn, more imperial Emperor, aaid Empress, or neater and s-feeter than the jts&quil, N. minimus, N. Nanus, N. triandrus, and the N, moschatus of Haworth, wihich, m-foxtunateily. I cannot grow. - . . I find 'that in some eyes it is a- virtue m ~a " flower that it should bo •scarce, and, if possible, dear. When Sir Wat-tin made its first appea_nu_ce in public emerging suddenly from the pri-. vaoy of some Welsh garden, where it had probably wmsted its sweetness unregarded for countless generations, it was thought to be a miracle of beauty, and as long as it was scarce'and dea.r it maintained its reputation. But now that ifc is cheap and plentiful you a_r« fco'.d at flower shows thafc it is coarse, and fire bidden, withdraw your ey ea from Sir Watkih to contemplate the charm.!, of Madame Plemp. When. I saw fiiis last-named flower for the first . time a year or two ago, in Ban's collection afc Long Ditton, I thought it a very fine daffodil, being, I fear, too much impressed, by its mcire w'ze. After growing TSdadaine Plemp for myself, I have come near to fchink___-g the Dutchwoman po«itively plain. I presume she i-. Dutch, from her name. At any irate, she has the Dutch virtues—vigoiir, boldne__i, and acesrtaii. generous anu>!itude and rotundity. „of build i but it ia a course kind of comeliness -+- something of tlie Flemish quality that Henry found in Anne CJl'eves. -;Ej. cept as naving. an.eye tb a/ conimercial transaction with a daffodil syndicate, 1 . would not give Sir Watkin or Hor__fieidj. foi a -wilderness'of Plemp**. - Yet let it not be forgotten that a daffodil may be beautiful, even though it is dear. As'prices go, Victoria is dea_r {though not a quarter ■ the price of the ungainly Plemp), but it .

is a queenly -flower, well worth a crown, and worthy of the lady after whom it is named.

Of the narcissi now in mv garden I could mention a good dozen which are as cheap as onions, yet which I defy custom to stale, or age to wither—Emperor, Empress, Grandis, Maximus, Henry Irving, Minimus, Nanus, Cernuus, Colleen Bawn, Minnie Hume, Sir Watkin, Barr's Conspicuus, Queen of Spain, tbe Jonquil, and others. For what will happen when time tries to improve these exquisite flowers. Maxirmis, for instance, leaves little room for

improvement. Anyone who thinks it requires improving cannot have seen the flower at its bes-t. lam told by some growers that, this fine flower is capricious —a serious fault, of course. But when Mac|imus seems capricious either it is no true Maxhuus (there ia, in fact, a spurious Richard in the field), or all is not well with the commissariat, for this! daffodil likes a generous regimen, and is every way entitled to it. M. J. Berkeley is thought by some to be an improvement on Majrimus. Mr Titheradge, the distinguished actor, and an enthusiastic daffodil grower, sent mc bulbs of this daffodil a few years ago, thinking it an improvement on. Maximus. So think not I. Apart from its inferiority in colour, the larger trumpet in Berkeley is quite out of proportion to the perianth. Again, how may Empress be improved? Madame Plemp ia larger and titty times as dear, but that does not make this daffodil a finer flower. To be sure, an Empress with a perianth of lustrous white, flashing in points of light like hoar-frost, the white that is so beautiful a feature in all the Poeticus tribe, would be a desirable flower.; or an Empress with an. orange trumpet, or a trumpet edged with orange. Ido not know whether these combinations really lie in the nature of things, but even if we possessed these desirable forms, they would not make the present flower in any/way less desiruMe. Again, how are the various Spanish sulphur daffodils—Cernuus, Moschatus, and others of that tribe—to be superseded? We have some charming variants of these, but if you change to any great degree the size, oolo.it, texture, and proportion, though you may get something that is well worth having, what- you get will be no substitute for the original flowers. It will be noted that I have put no Poeticus narcissi .among the unsupersedable. The fact is that I have seen the Rev. G. H. Ei-gleheart's seedlings, and I rather think that he is on the way to making all our present poeticus forms (except, psrhaps, the ■ double) unnecessary. One April morning, a few years ago, I strolled into the Drill Hall, Westminster, a» various exhibitors— liurr. Ware, and others—were "-stacking" (that is the only word that can give an icJea of-the quantities) their exhibits of daffodils. In my walk round the hall I saw little thfat we could not grow just as well here, or better, till I cam. to a stand where a parson was arranging flowers that made mc pause and revise my .previous notions of daffodils. The varieties cm the stand may have numbered- some score or so, but ail were new, distinct and lovely flowers. I cannot pretend to remember, otherwise than indistinctly, Mr Engleheart's new daffodils, and their names. His col- ■ lection is in my an Ind now a confusion of splendour. There was a white Sir Watkin, called, I think, "White Queen": "Southern Star" witib. a heart as red as Mars; 'Torch," also orange centred, a loose flower in tho way of Frank Miles; Flamingo and OrHlamme. flamboyant both; a fine • trumpet daffodil in the style of Maximus, and called '. The Cid"; and two large Poeticus varieties, exquisite in shape and texture, named, if I remember, "Homer" and "Sir Walter Scott." My impression is that the trumpet daifbdils were less fully represented in Mr Engleheart's collection than the other sections. Some day, -no doubt, . these fine daffodils will be distributed, and then thtere will be a flutter among connoisseurs. A friend, who is an excellent judge of the flower, informs mc that he saw some of the Engleheart seedlings on. exhibition last spring at Christchurch, and that he found them poor and disappointing. I take leave to think eithter that the flowers were nodi well grown, or that they'were not genuine Engleheart seedlings. v

This article text was automatically generated and may include errors. View the full page to see article in its original form.
Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/CHP19010909.2.20.1

Bibliographic details

DAFFODILS., Press, Volume LVIII, Issue 11065, 9 September 1901

Word Count
3,524

DAFFODILS. Press, Volume LVIII, Issue 11065, 9 September 1901

Working