Narcissi - the first sign of spring

That sunny harbinger of spring, the pot Narcissus brightens any room...

The story behind the narcissus

The Narcissus derives its name from a beautiful youth in Greek mythology. Narcissus had no interest in the nymph Echo, who adored him. Instead of flirting, he preferred to go hunting. Echo asked the God of vengeance, Nemesis, to punish him for his rejection. When Narcissus went to drink from a clear stream after some strenuous activity, he saw his own magnificent reflection and was so impressed by it that he continued to gaze at himself in the water lovingly for days. In the end exhaustion caused him to fall into the water and he drowned. A flower sprung up on the spot which had the same beauty as the youth, with its head hanging slightly. Narcissism - excessive love of oneself - is derived from this. 

In the wild narcissi grow in meadows, woods and rocky places. You often see it on verges and under hedges on country roads - in the 1940s British Flower Farmers pulled up their narcissi to grow more food during the war, and literally threw the bulbs over the hedge, which is where they still flower to this day. 

Fortunately more and more brave souls are going back to flower farming and now there are golden fields of blooming narcissi in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly once again, which is where I source mine from.

Pot narcissi are available in a wide range of colours and flower shapes. Most cultivars are yellow and white, but there are also orange, cream, salmon and many bi-coloured narcissi. Some cultivars have a beautiful fragrance, such as paperwhites. Some are fine and delicate, others are blowsy and full...

 

Classification of the narcissi range according to flower shape:

  • Trumpet (trumpet longer than the petals)
  • Double-flowered (double trumpet or petals)
  • Large-crowned (trumpet is more than 1/3 of the length of the petals)
  • Small-crowned (trumpet is not more than 1/3 of the length of the petals)
  • Cyclamen-flowered (petals point strongly backwards, flower bent towards the ground)
  • Triandrus (spray, petals point strongly backwards)
  • Tazetta (spray narcissus, strongly scented, petals do not point backwards)
  • Poeticus (scented, petals pure white, cup very short or disc-shaped)
  • Jonquilla (hollow or pitcher-shaped trumpet)
  • Split-crowned (cup open)
  • Botanical narcissi, often identifiable by the small sizes and the name which consists only of the genus name and species epithet.

Care tips

Pot narcissi are a fabulous harbinger of spring which can give great pleasure if the plant is cared for properly. Indoors it is best to place the plant in a cool spot in order to allow it flower for as long as possible. In the garden it makes few demands, and can cope with both shade and sun. Even in wintry conditions narcissi can brighten up a balcony or patio. Water regularly and do not allow the pot soil to dry out. There is no need to feed, since most nutrition is already present in the bulb. Just to be clear, the plant is only for decoration and not for consumption.