"Only a few narcissi here & there
Stand separate in sweet austerity,
Dotting the unmown grass with silver stars,
And here & there a daffodil waves tiny scimitars."
Narcissus x cyclamineus 'Tracey' is a 2001 recipient of the Award of Garden Merit. It was developed in New Zealand. Its a stubby daffodil whose blooms stand eight inches to at most foot tall. Although I've not found who this variety is named after, I like to pretend of it as named for London's avant garde artist, filmmaker, & author Tracey Emin, a self-avowed narcissist.
We planted a dozen 'Tracey' bulbs in a streetside garden on a garden ledge, to the right side of a semi-evergreen twinberry bush, & added about fourteen Narcissus x cyclamineus 'Itzim' to the left of the same bush, separated by a winter iris that is a few years old.
Early flowering & long lasting, with only one flower per stem as with all N. cyclamineus varieties, the blooms are opening by the last week of February or early March. When 'Tracey' first folds back its reflexed petals, it bows its pale yellow face in prayer or contemplation. As the bloom ages, it slowly turns its face upward, & the petals fade toward white. The slender cylindrical trumpet or corola retains just a bit of yellow, in contrast to the transluscent ghostly paleness of the swept-back perianth.
Delicate & tastefully suggestive of a woodland wildflower rather than a big gaudy daffodil, this is my idea of a perfect narcissus, though gardeners seeking showiness or planting cutting-gardens would want something with bigger wider blooms.
In autumn when first planting bulbs, a bit of bonemeal can be put in the hole before each bulb, in good humusy soil. For future years, it is best to fertilize narcissi in early spring as the narcissus-grass is erupting. When finished flowering, narcissus leaves should not be cut back until they start to brown. The bulbs multiply swiftly & it will be necessary to lift them after a few years for division.
Daffodils were called Gregories in Elizabethan Devon, in honor of a monastery at Frittlestoke, the Canons of St. Gregory, where many daffodils were grown, & it was long believed that in any field where many wild daffodils grew, a church or abbey had once been there, a belief that quite often turns out to be the case. In Wales the daffodil is sacred to St. David, & is said first to bloom on his saint's day, March 1, when daffodils are worn by school children.
Gerard's Herbal states that the Narcissus was the flower ruled by Mars, but actual myth associates its creation with the wife of Mars, vis, Venus, who to punish the hunter Narcissus for his cruelty to Echo cursed him with self-absorption, so that he wasted away & turned into a flower; though others held that he slew himself at the side of a pool, & from his blood daffodils arose.
Shakespeare tells a different version for the origin of the daffodil. In A Winter's Tale, Proserpine was gathering lilies when Pluto snatched her, but where she dropped the lilies, a completely different flower was seeded, the grief-stricken daffodils with heads bowed down in sorrow. For a complete discussion of narcissus mythology, see The Mythology of the Daffodil.
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