'Hillstar' Jonquil,
or Miniature Narcissus

"A smile, a touch of a loving hand,
an outpost on a hill
And, oh, what a happy little child
bringing home a daffodil."

-Daffodil Song, author unknown


Narcissus jonquilla is the Small Jonquil, a native of southern Europe. Its cultivars are lightly scented miniature daffodils.

We bought a bag of two-dozen daffodil bulbs that were labeled 'Hillstar,' a rather recent & award-winning American variety of jonquil. The bag had a nice photograph of 'Hillstar' with its yellow petals & white trumpet.

We planted them in autumn (2002), & contrary to that lovely bag-o'-bulbs' promise, what sprang up the following April appeared to be 'Autumn Gold,' a probable parent of 'Hillstar,' with bright yellow trumpet & matching bright yellow petals. It, just like 'Hillstar,' was a recipient of the American Horticultural Society Silver Medal. Even though 'Autumn Gold' was lovely too, I had really wanted 'Hillstar,' & was momentarily disappointed.

Autumn Gold A week later, however, the all-yellow daffodils began to show a white hallo around each trumpet. Oh joy! It was 'Hillstar' after all.

Then by their third or fourth week, the trumpets had turned creamy white within the unfaded outer petals!

No question then but that it was 'Hillstar,' a 1979 introduction. No catalog listing had mentioned that these start out pure yellow & that the trumpets by stages fade to ivory. It's really quite a fabulous feature & should be noted. It's a feature called "reverse bicolor" since the bloom does not start out bicolored, & it's a feature another hybrid creation in our garden, 'Pipit,' which was also developed the late Grant E. Mitsch.

The first April photo at top of the page shows the fresh blooms as pure yellow; the second photo late in April shows the halloed effect when the center begins to whiten; & the third photo shows it in the first week in May when the trumpet is finally white.

The blooms are surprisingly long lasting, from April well into June. Since many of our other daffodils bloom March & April, adding jonquils to any early-blooming array insures one or another daffodil's presence until summer.

HillstarEach stem gets two or three or occasionally even more than three flowers on it. This habit in jonquils is called "cluster flowering," so a few bulbs planted together look very substantial when in bloom, & as not all the buds open together, it explains the bloom time which so far out-lasts narcissus types that produce only one flower per stem.

The trumpets are short so that the whole bloom looks wider than it is long. The trumpets also have very charming ruffling all around the edges.

N. jonquilla is regarded as a "miniature" daffodil, but many of them, & 'Hillstar' most certainly, can exceed a foot in height. While no giant it is nevertheless considerably larger thanN. cyclamineus 'Jack Snipe' & other cyclamineus cultivars, which makes 'Hillstar' a nice one to plant immediately behind the smaller types.

All daffodils always face the sunniest direction they can locate, so if planted along a wall or with shadow at their backs, they will always face outward. With daffodils, it is a good idea to ponder which way they are going to face before selecting their position, as a grouping that faces toward sunlight through a picket fence & away from the yard might seem to have been planted backwards, their heads bowed away from the garden's viewer.

'Hillstar' should perennialize very easily, but it turned out our location for them was too shaded later in the spring, when the lingering leaves should be getting enough sun to recharge the bulbs. So in Autumn 2003 we lifted these bulbs & moved them to a sunnier location amidst the creeping woody stems of Homestead Verbena. The bulbs indeed looked depleted & how well or how many of them recover we'll not know until spring of 2004. Their previous spot which was too overshadowed by large bushes will in the future be used to extend out cyclamen collection, which love dryish shady locations.


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