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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 7 (November 1, 1928)

The Queen of Spring Flowers — Hints on the Cultivation of the Daffodil

page 35

The Queen of Spring Flowers
Hints on the Cultivation of the Daffodil

Perhaps no one in New Zealand has had greater success in the cultivation of Narcissi than Mr. W. Slater, of Lower Hutt, Wellington, who has kindly given, in the following article, the benefit of his experience for the use of our readers.

“Floral apostles! that in deny splendour weep without woe, and blush without a crime.” —Horace Smith.

The Narcissus, the “Queen of Spring,” is again abloom in our gardens, and, no doubt, among the ranks of raiwaymen there are many who desire to produce these lovely flowers in all their glory. The Narcissus is easily cultivated and requires very little attention after the bulbs have been planted.

I will here outline the method I have adopted in the cultivation of these flowers, a method which, in a great measure, has contributed to my success on the show benches.
Narcissi—“Wheel of Fortune.”

Narcissi—“Wheel of Fortune.”

It is preferable that the Narcissi beds should be prepared in the kitchen garden, in a sunny aspect, well sheltered from the prevailing winds. If such a position is not available, a good breakwind can be obtained by erecting a double row of wire netting—one or two inch mesh—spaced four inches apart. The beds, which should be four to five feet wide and running east to west (and as long as desired), should be prepared early in October. By this method the necessary hoeing and weeding can be carried out without treading on the beds, and the sun can stream down between the rows. Let us assume it is decided to make the bed thirty feet long by four feet wide. In such a case one should procure two sound boards twenty feet by six inches by one inch, and two boards four feet by six inches by one inch. The first thing to do is to place the boards (in the form of a frame) on top of the ground in the position selected. Then remove the top seven inches of soil between this frame, and bank up the soil outside.

Now, to the surface of the bed thus excavated, give a dressing per square yard as follows: —1lb. of fresh slaked lime, 8ozs. of soot and 4ozs. of pure bone dust. Thoroughly dig this dressing into the bed (breaking up the soil well), and then level off. Proceed then to apply a double layer of good cow-pasture turf, or cocksfoot clumps, placed grass-side down. When the turf has been laid evenly in the bed, replace (on to the top of the turf) the soil which was first removed. This will raise the surface of the bed to the top of the boards—six inches above the level of the surrounding ground—thus ensuring perfect drainage.

That this bed may not lie idle for the three months it would not be required for Narcissi culture, it could be utilised for raising cabbage, cauliflower or like plants. It is essential, however, page 36 that these be transplanted before January, A week to ten days before the planting time for bulbs, give the bed a further top dressing of lime (4ozs, to the square yard), and lightly fork this in and level off the surface.

Planting the Bulbs.

Plant the Narcissi bulbs early in January so as to secure as long a season's growth as possible. But before proceeding to do so measure off the bed and mark the rows on each side of the twenty feet board, starting nine
Varietis of Narcissus Grown at Lower Hutt, Wellington.

Varietis of Narcissus Grown at Lower Hutt, Wellington.

inches from the end and fifteen inches between the rows. (This marking can best be done with nails or saw cuts.)

The safest method is to plant the bulbs according to their size, and to cover them with from one to one and a half times their own depth of soil—that is three to four inches below the surface. If in doubt plant on the deep side. This ensures a more even temperature. Allow three to four inches between each bulb and plant so that the natural increase will run up and down the rows. This increase can be detected by a swelling on the side of the bulb.

Surface hoeing can be carried out till the end of March, after which hand weed if necessary. The top soil must be kept free.

There is no safe method of retarding a bloom which may be too early for a certain date; but such blooms may be preserved for two or three weeks by covering them with scrim. Buds which are backward can be helped considerably by a mild application of nitrate of soda—½oz. to a gallon of water—applied four weeks before show day (assuming the bulbs are being grown for show purposes), and again two weeks later. A liberal use of lime in the making of the bed enables you to use the nitrate of soda.

On no account pull the blooms to obtain longer stems for the show bench. This method is injurious to the bulb and also opens up an easy entrance for the two worst enemies of the Narcissus—eel worm and bulb mite. Flowers should be cut or picked at ground level.

Trumpet daffodils grow much larger when left on the plant. This also applies to the Leedsii and Incomparabilis selfs and bi-colours without red cups. Some of the red cup Incomparabilis should be left growing to develop the colour. Red cups generally, more especially the Barrii and Poeticus, should be cut as soon as the flower begins to open. The cut blooms should be kept in a cool airy room and given fresh water daily. They will thus increase in size and retain their beautiful colour.

Should the weather be dry at any time in the growing season, water the beds twice a week with pure water. Lack of substance in the page 37 blooms is caused by an insufficiency of moisture in the soil. The Narcissi like moisture, but not stagnant moisture.

After the flowering season is over do not on any account remove the foliage. Plants will keep on growing for another ten or twelve weeks. In this period the bulb and the flower are being prepared for the following year. The time to clean up the bed is when the leaves have separated themselves naturally from the bulb.

Once a bed is planted it may remain down for three years. (Better blooms are produced in the second and third years). After the third year it will be necessary to lift the bulbs, work that is best done about mid-December. As each variety is lifted place the bulbs in a sieve and thoroughly wash them under the high pressure hose, and remove the decayed scales and roots. Place the bulbs in a cool dry place until the next planting time.

When again planting the bulbs it is better to prepare a new bed than to use the old one. If space will not permit, renew the soil of the old bed as before stated.

In A Jewel Isle In The Pacific. A light railway rebuilt and operated by a working party of New Zealand Railway Engineers in Samoa, in 1914.

In A Jewel Isle In The Pacific.
A light railway rebuilt and operated by a working party of New Zealand Railway Engineers in Samoa, in 1914.

Narcissi respond to good cultivation and not to over-feeding.

By following out the method of cultivation briefly outlined in the foregoing article the reader will be agreeably surprised by the results achieved. Instead of mediocre blooms he will have blooms of rare beauty and charm. I cannot do better than close these notes with the lines of the poet Wordsworth: —

“For oft when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.”

Flowers as Symbols of Sentiment

The instinctive and universal taste of mankind selects flowers for the expression of its finest sympathies, their beauty and their fleetingness serving to make them the most fitting symbols of those delicate sentiments for which language itself seems almost too gross a medium. —Hillard.