January 8th, 2003
Narcissus tazetta and Chinese Sacred Lily
Grand Primo Narcissus tazetta italicus. Austin, TX. Zone 8.
The scent of paperwhites ushers in the New Year. I can’t stand the scent of the modern paperwhites, ‘Ziva’ and ‘Galilee’, but I’ve love the scent of their tazetta relative, Narcissus tazetta v. italicus. It is the scent of the first flower of the New Year.
I had always thought that N. italicus had a lovely, citrus-y scent. But over Christmas, when JQS was working at my desk, he said, “Mom, do you smell airplane glue or something?” I came over concerned and then laughed. “It’s just the flowers.”
If you don’t like the scent of paperwhites, try growing Narcissus tazetta v orientalis (the Chinese Sacred Lily) instead. It is scented with orange essence. I always buy bulbs to force and plant them out in the garden afterward where they come back year after year.
In this photo, the N. italicus are on the left and the Chinese Sacred Lily on the right. In my garden the N. italicus grow on stalks 20 to 24 inches tall, the Chinese Sacred Lily on stalks 12 to 14 inches tall.
The foliage of N. italicus is a much deeper green than the gray-green paperwhites, the strappy leaves are almost an inch wide. They grow straight and tall in the fall and finally flop over. Although they are my first narcissus to bloom, the leaves are the last to disappear in the spring. Sometimes it is May before I can divide them.
I always plant them where I can see them through a window from inside the house. Then even on a miserably cold day like today, I can enjoy the garden.
In Other People’s Gardens
I don’t really know if my bulbs really are Grand Primo as they were in the garden when I arrived. Mine don’t look anything like the photo at Old House Gardens.
However, mine do look like the Grand Primo pictured in this photo from the Stephen F. Austin State University. Notice how the cup is much smaller and a paler lemon yellow. Also the petals are slimmer and more pointed, often twisting back.
Although the same photo is enlarged here and these flowers do not have as narrow tapering petals as mine.
Update: February 25, 2004
I’ve corrected this post because I determined that I had two different Narcissus tazetta growing in my garden. For more information, see A Tale of Two Narcissus
by M Sinclair Stevens in Austin, Texas