The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 8 (November 1, 1935)
To those who love the beautiful, the daffodil should have a special appeal. It is a flower we cannot afford to do without — a flower which the ardent gardener, as soon as he sees it in some of its finer forms, feels he must grow.
Its numerous varieties supply a very real need in our gardens, and occupy a prominent position in the year's procession of beautiful flowers. Growing in the open ground, they delight us at a time when cut flowers from the open border are very scarce; many of them rival in beauty the choicest treasures of the greenhouse and hothouse; when cut, their flowers last in water for ten days or even more; and although there is a certain amount of truth in the objection that it is easy in a large collection to pick out a number of varieties which are rather similar in character, it is still easier to select a very large number which are far more distinct from each other than rose from rose or carnation from carnation.
To get the most vigorous plants, the most perfect flowers, the greatest possible increase of bulbs, you must plant early. As early as December a ring-like swelling may be seen all round the base of the bulb. This is caused by the effort of the young roots to start into growth, and it is Nature's warning to plant the bulbs as soon as you can if you do not wish them to lose in vigour. You should, therefore, order your bulbs early; and plant them early in January.
Method of Planting.
Wherever your beds may be placed, the ground should be dug deeply, and well drained, if there is not good natural drainage. The digging should be done long enough before planting time to let the soil settle, for the Narcissus bulb does not do well in loose soil. If for any reason you are obliged to prepare your beds shortly before planting time, it is a good and simple plan to take the opportunity when the soil is not wet to press the bulbs down firmly by placing a fairly wide board on the surface and standing upon it. This very primitive method gives an even and not too great pressure, and will relieve you from the necessity of planting in too loose soil.
Though the Narcissus likes plenty of moisture when it is in vigorous growth, it likes that moisture to pass through, and not remain stagnant in the soil, and the bulbs of most of the varieties strongly resent being water-logged, in fact, they soon get diseased under such a condition. Those bulbs which are in deeply dug beds do better both in dry and in wet seasons than those planted in shallow soil. A good deal must, of course, depend on the nature of the subsoil, but as a general rule deep digging and good drainage are necessary for permanent success.
Some of the best blooms shown at the National and Auckland Daffodil Shows, 1932. (1) Fortune, (2) Kingdom, (3) Beersheba, (4) Maharajah, (5) Lady Superior, (6) Silver Dawn.
Planting should be done, if possible, when the soil is nicely damp (not wet) and in planting, great care should be taken to settle the base of the bulb firmly in the soil, so that no air space is left under it. After planting, the surface of the beds should be kept open by “lightening up” with a hand fork about every ten days throughout the autumn; otherwise it will become too hard set by the autumn rains.
Varieties which increase slowly may, if they seem quite happy, be left for three years; but on the other hand delicate sorts which look as if they were not doing well, may, with advantage, be lifted year by year. When it is necessary to apply manure it should be borne in mind that the daffodil likes phosphates, but strongly objects to ammonia. Basic slag and bone dust make reliable manures. The best method is to apply them as a top dressing soon after planting, mixing them in with a hand fork in the covering of soil above the bulbs, but not in immediate contact with them.
Gathering the Flowers.
If the greatest possible enjoyment is to be obtained from the cut flowers of the Narcissus they should not be left on the plant until fully opened, at the mercy of wind, rain, sun and dust, but cut as soon as the flower begins to unwrap itself from the crown, and then allowed to open out in water in a fairly warm room, or other sheltered place, such as a greenhouse.
All the beauty and freshness of colour which are so charming in the Narcissus will thus be preserved, and although flowers which have been open on the plant for a considerable time may attain to rather larger size, the slight gain in this respect does not counterbalance the loss in purity and freshness. A further advantage gained is that blooms cut in the bud may be packed for transport in a much smaller space, and yet will open out in water better and even larger than flowers cut as soon as they have quite opened out on the plant.
Now for the commercial side of daffodil raising. This Dominion has become a serious rival of Britain and Holland, and, in my opinion, will, in the near future, lead the world in outstanding blooms and varieties, our climate being suitable to this end.
The enormous increase in the number of named daffodils necessitated the adoption of a classification for garden and show purposes. Moreover, in order to reduce the possibility of confusion through the use of a given name for more than one variety the Royal Horticultural Society, London, has published a list of names already in common use. This can be purchased for 1/6.
The export of daffodil bulbs has been for some years very considerable. Many New Zealand-raised varieties can be found in Australian growers' catalogues. The names of New Zealanders who have created and registered in the Royal Horticultural Society's Year Book number eleven.
The following beautiful varieties owe their birth to New Zealand hybridisers, and can be purchased, viz.: Bonny Glen Durness, Egmont Queen, Flash Lightning, Glen Eden, Golden Fleece, Goodson's Choice, Gramophone, Hallmark, Hone Heke, Kaloola, King Frost, Kinlock, Lady Roberts, Letty, Mararoa, Mrs. Hugh Campbell, Oceanid, Owen Bray, Silver Plane, and Vera Bray. This by no means exhausts the number which have been produced in New Zealand. The 289 named varieties registered and classified up to February, 1933, indicates surely, the birth of a new industry. Already there is evidence of cultivation on a large scale, such as the large area planted on the hillside at Wetherstons, this area being a centre of attraction for tourists, nearly 1,000 of whom journeyed by one train to view a multitude of daffodils. The establishment of further areas of this kind in other parts of our Dominion would augment the revenue of our Railways and stimulate the popular interest in floriculture in New Zealand.
(W. W. Stewart collection).
New Zealand's finest train, the Limited Express, approaching Auckland after its 426-mile run from Wellington.