My Victorian Garden in Spring: Heirloom Daffodils and Other Bulbs
Gardening with Antique Perennial Daffodils and Other Heirloom Spring Bulbs
This page features antique and heirloom daffodils and other spring blooming bulbs that we grow in our own garden.
Read and learn about rare hard-to-find species narcissus/daffodils from as far back as the 17th and 18th centuries, with lots of photos of the antique perennial daffodils and other heirloom spring flowers we grow from bulbs.
You will also find some fun features including polls and a quizz, so have fun and enjoy our garden tour.
Gardening with Antique Perennial Daffodils and Other Heirloom Spring Bulbs is the second in our Victorian Garden series, a companion to Gardening with Rare and Unusual Perennial Tulips and Growing Heirloom and Old-Fashioned Roses.
Our zone 5 garden is very much still a work in progress and is being created to go with our 1880 Queen Anne Victorian. We try to stick to plants favored in the Victorian era, although we are not that strict about that for now. As we discover more age-appropriate bulbs and plants we will pass some of the "newer" heirlooms on to our neighbors and clients who own later homes such as craftsman, bungalow, cottage, and four square styles that were built circa 1900 through the 1920s.
The Advantages of Gardening with Heirloom Bulbs
There are many advantages to gardening with heirloom bulbs. Many of these older types are hardier and many antique varieties of daffodils are perfumed with lovely scents reminiscent of jasmine and gardenias.
More recent hybrids may be bigger or come in unusual colors (pink daffodils, anyone?) but, as far as we and plants are concerned, bigger and/or different is not necessarily better.
We'll be adding to this page as the late bloomers open and nod their heads toward my camera, so please bookmark this lens or follow us on twitter for updates and notices.
Rip Van Winkle, 1884
This whimsical dwarf daffodil with its spiky blooms is the earliest to bloom for us. It is about 8 inches tall and is also easy to force indoors, in case you aren't within the recommended zones. It is named after the eponymous main character who, in Washington Irving's 1819 short story, wakes after sleeping for 20 years.
A Surprise Daffodil
This beautiful bloom showed up for the first time this year in a bed of yellow daffodils planted three years ago.
We have not been able to identify it, and don't know if it is a fluke or if a mislabeled bulb was planted in the bed in the fall of 2000 and just decided to show its pretty little head now. If you are a "narcissist" and are familiar with this daff, please let us know.
A Swath of Naturalized Daffodils
Queen Anne's Double Jonquil, 1611
N. jonquilla 'Flore Pleno'
A gorgeous 2012 addition
to Our Victorian Garden
'Flora Pleno' is one of the rarest and most difficult to find daffodils. The folks at Old House Gardens call Queen Anne's Double Jonquils "prom dresses for honeybees," and describe them as "swooningly fragrant." I couldn't have said it better myself.
One of my personal favorites, the "Queen" is a full flower that is smaller and much more refined than it's larger cousin, the double campernelle (shown further down on this page). It has a light ethereal look despite being packed with petals.
N. jonquilla 'Flore Pleno' is about 10 inches tall and although rated for zone 6, as you can see from the photo, does beautifully in my zone 5 garden in a bed with a western exposure.
The bloom has not fully opened in the photo, but we will update it in a day or two when the petals unfold. (Update 4/24/12: Photo added below. Please scroll down to second photo that follows.)
Weather Alert: We Interrupt this Page....April 23, 2012
The week of April 17th was unseasonably warm, as was most of March and April. Everything was blooming about a month earlier than usual. When we woke up on the morning of Monday, the 23rd of April, we found everything covered with snow.
My beloved "Glory of the Sun" tulip was crushed and broken from the weight of the heavy wet snow. Queen Anne's jonquils were buried, but I dug them out, cut the frozen blossoms, and placed them in some water in the house. All but one eventually opened, their gentle sweet scent drifting in the air. (You can see a photo below)
However, I regret to report that we lost two other early tulips that would have bloomed this week, and most of the remaining daffodils. I expect that mid- and late-season tulips and other spring bulbs will bloom fine, except for the few whose stems were snapped in two by the snow.
BTW - that beautiful arc of branches framing the top of the photo is a usually upright branch from a neighbor's tall old birch tree bent by the snow. We still have some snow outside, and may get another inch or two before tomorrow, but hope that is the last of it. The late snow is not unusual in Central New York -- but the warmer weather that preceded it this year certainly is an anomaly.
"Rescued" Queen Anne's Double Jonquils
N. Poeticus Recurvus (pre-1600s)
The fragrant Poet's Narcissus grows wild in Spain and appears in English herbals from the early 1600s, although presumably was known prior to that, at least in Spain.
In the United States, Poet's Narcissus or Pheasant's Eye, as it is also known, dates to colonial times when settlers brought some of the precious bulbs from Europe for their own gardens. Grows about 12-14 inches tall in zones 4-6.
Narcissus 'Butter and Eggs'
A Survivor from 1776
The 'Butter and Eggs' Daffodil is an heirloom from the southern United States, but hardy to zone 5.
At least as old as its native country, this double yellow daffodil has survived as a privately shared "passalong" plant for over 235 years.
The 'Butter and Eggs' daffodil can be distinguished from the few similar doubles available today because it has center petals a little bit darker than the outer petals.
A "New" (for us) Heirloom Daffodil from 1869
'Stella' is, as the name suggests, a star-like daffodil in two shades of the prettiest yellow.
She has a small ruffled darker yellow trumpet surrounded by narrow graceful petals in a soft lemon hue.
N. Stella is a new addition to our garden (planted fall 2011, first blooms mid-April 2012).
Doesn't it make you happy just to see her?
aka 'Twin Sisters'
Twin Sisters Daffodil, known as the wildflower 'Primrose Peerless' prior to 1597, has two blooms per stem in white with small lemon yellow cups. It has also been called April Beauty, Cemetery Ladies, and Loving Couples.
Narcissus medioluteus stands about 12-14 inches tall and, although usually indicated as appropriate for zones 6-8, it does fine in our zone 5 garden, where it blooms and scents the air in early to mid-May.
Are You Narcissistic or Tulip-rific?
Do You Prefer Tulips or Daffodils?
More Heirloom Daffodils
Mary Copeland, 1913
English horticulturist W.F.M. Copeland II, named this double daffodil after his daughter Mary in 1913.
Narcissus Mary Copeland features long creamy white petals and a centre interspersed with lemon and orange-red and has an enchanting scent.
No wonder it was one of the most popular of the double daffs throughout the 20th century!
Another Mystery Daffodil - Can You Identify It? - A Surprise Appearance in April 2012 and again in 2013
Last year we had two unusual blooms in one of our groupings of 'Mary Copeland' Daffodils (see previous photo). They look pretty much the same as 'Mary' and have the same scent, but the outer petals are yellow fading to white instead of white. This year three of them showed up.
These beauties do not match any variety we have ordered or planted, and we haven't been able to identify it through our research.
Could it be a sport of Mary Copeland or a mis-identified bulb?
Could it be Twink - a 1925 rarity we've yet to purchase?
What do you think?
We'd Appreciate Your Help...
Can you help us identify this daffodil?
Heirloom Narcissus Poeticus Plenus 'Daphne'
aka Double Poet's Daffodil
The Heirloom Daffodil 'Daphne' is a sport of Narcissus Oderatus that was discovered prior to 1914. It blooms mid- to late season and grows to about 12 inches tall. Best of all, 'Daphne' has a wonderful spicy sweet fragrance that reminds me of gardenias.
'Daphne' is one of the few daffodils that is suited to growing in warmer climates and is rated for zones 4 to 11.
Narcissus Mrs. Langtry: Named for Victorian Actress, Lily Langtry
Double Campernelle, 1601
Narcissus x odorus 'Plenus'
Double Campernelle is a favorite daffodil from over 400 years ago. It is a cheerful medium yellow -- a shade that is neither too soft nor too strong. Narcissus x odorus 'Plenus' has a scent that reminds me of jasmine.
Fragrant and double for a triple delight.
Grows 10-12 inches tall and is recommended for zones 5-8a.
"My heart with pleasure fills, and dances with the daffodils" William Wordsworth Memo Cube
Multiple Blooms and Scented
Another lovely scented daffodil, the exquisite Narcissus Thalia dates to 1916.
It is the oldest cultivated form of the wild N. triandrus and will grow 14 to 16 inches tall in zones 4 through 8.
Narcissus 'White Lady'
An old fashioned daffodil from 1897
With a ruffled yellow cup and pristine white petals, 'White Lady' was a favorite of Mrs. King, the founder of the Garden Club of America and author of nine garden books. Mrs. King called 'White Lady' "A regal beauty." It is easy to see why.
White lady grows to about 16 inches tall and is suitable for zones 5 through 8a. This is one of the rarest of the heirloom daffs.
Which is your favorite heirloom Daffodil?
Which daffodil on this page do you like best?
Enjoy Daffodils All Year Long Through Timeless Art
Above: Daffodils by William Gersham Collingwood
Right: Narcissus by John William Waterhouse
Neo-Classical artist John William Waterhouse (1849 - 1917) was a renowned Neo-Classical artist known for lifelike, hauntingly sensual paintings. Born in Italy and raised in England, Waterhouse preferred historical, mythological, and literary subjects. His work had strong romantic Pre-Raphaelite and Victorian influences.
Both are Available at AllPosters.com in a variety of formats and sizes to suit your decorating style and budget.
More for Daffodil Lovers
Assorted Other Bulbs: Crocus chrysanthus 1914
Muscari Botryoides - Grape Hyacinth
Muscari botryoides is a vigorous, cold-hardy (zone 3-7) blue grape hyacinth that dates to 1576. It grows 6-8 inches tall with long-lasting blooms. It is not readily available, having been replaced by modern armeniacum and aucheri hybrids, but worth searching for, especially in colder regions.
Allium Karataviense - aka Turkestan onion
This ornamental dwarf onion blooms in spring for three or four weeks in shades of ivory to soft pink/lavender. With sweetly scented large (to five inches in diameter) globular flower heads, this allium is grown as much for its hosta-like blue-gray-green foliage as for its blooms. A lovely short, sturdy, decorative additon to gardens in zones 5 through 8.
More About Gardening
- My Victorian Garden in Summer: Growing Heirloom and Old-Fashioned Roses
- My Victorian Garden: Growing Heirloom Bearded Iris
- My Victorian Garden: Gardening with Rare & Unusual Antique Heirloom Spring Tulip Bulbs
- Basic Gardening Essentials: A Guide to the 10 Best Garden Tools and Accessories
- Kids In The Garden: Great Gardening Gifts, Tools & Toys for Kids
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