February 25th, 2004
A Tale of Two Narcissus
One of the bulbs I found in my garden when I moved in over ten years ago was a Narcissus tazetta cross. These narcissus (in contrast to the paperwhite narcissus) have wide strappy dark green leaves, yellow cups, bloom later, a much more pleasant scent, and thrive year after year on heavy clay soil without much attention.
So based on Scott Ogden’s description in Garden Bulbs for the South and the fact that I live in an older Austin neighborhood, I was pretty sure my N. tazetta was ‘Grand Primo’. But I had some doubts. Scott Ogden said that ‘Grand Primo’ blooms in late February and mine usually begin blooming on New Year’s Day (depending on the amount of rain in November and December). The few photos I found confused me more. My tazetta has distinctly separate, thin, pointed, petals which tend to twist back slightly, forming wind-blown stars. Other photos of ‘Grand Primo’ show overlapping petals that curve inward.
This season, with its unusually dry December and an unusually wet February, provided an answer to the mystery. I have two different tazetta crosses. The flower on the left bloomed as usual beginning in January. But then three more clumps came up much later than the rest, with slightly shorter leaves and scapes. When they began blooming a couple of weeks ago, I could see the difference.
I think that the flower on the left is Narcissus tazetta v. italicus. The one on the right could be ‘Grand Primo’ or even ‘Avalanche’.
If it ever stops raining (did I actually say that?), I’ll take some more photos.
by M Sinclair Stevens