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A Little Sweetie for Valentine’s Day

Scratch your computer screen and sniff!

The weather was beautiful today – sunny with temperatures in the 60’s.

I spent most of my time outdoors.  It was a lovely winter day – right on the cusp of spring with azure skies and budded canopies.

As I meandered through the garden, I noticed the first ‘Little Sweetie’ of the year.

‘Little Sweetie’ is a species daffodil or narcissus.  It has tiny golden blossoms with a delightful sweet spicy fragrance.

I spied this wonderful treasure and immediately dropped to my knees for a sniff.    I inhaled deeply and sighed as the scent molecules sent a blissful jolt to my synapses.

I photographed ‘Little Sweetie’.  Then I picked her only flower.  I walked the nature trails pausing frequently to breathe the intoxicating scent.

All in all, I can’t think of a better Valentine gift.

If you would like to know more of my thoughts about ‘Little Sweetie’, check out my last year’s blog post about this wonderful heirloom daffodil at  http://yardflower.com/?s=little+sweeties


 

Twin Sisters

The twin sisters are the last daffodil to bloom in my garden.


 

After weeks of daff-obsession, I would be remiss if I did not record my recollections of the last daffodil to bloom in my garden this season.

I am quite fond of the twin sisters (a.k.a Narcissus biflorus and more recently Narcissus x medioluteus).  I was introduced to this wonderful daffodil by Dr. William Giles, former President of my alma mater - Mississippi State University.  When Dr. Giles learned that Richard and I had started a nursery, he invited us to his home to talk plants.

It was an April Easter weekend. The three of us strolled around the garden and stopped before a huge stand of daffodils.

Dr. Giles paused and said “Do you know the April Narcissus?”

I did not.  However, that problem was soon to be remedied.   I left with a huge clump of bulbs that I have enjoyed ever since.

The Twin Sisters have many pseudonyms.   They are known as April Narcissus, Easter Lilies, April Beauty, Cemetery Ladies, Primrose Peerless, Pale Narcissus, Loving Couples and Two-flowered Narcissus.  As an abundance of common names usually indicates, Twin Sisters had been cultivated for quite some time.

The Twins are actually a natural sterile hybrid between the Poet’s narcissus (Narcissus poeticus) and the bunch narcissus (Narcissus tazetta). They were first found in the west of France and have since become naturalized in several countries.

The flowers are usually borne late in the season in pairs with two blossoms per stalk.  The petals are creamy and ruffled.  The cup is golden.  It is smaller than that of the Poet’s narcissus and bordered by a white rather than a red edge.

It is interesting that Dr. Giles lived in my Mama’s old home place in the Bell Schoolhouse Community near Starkville, Mississippi.

Perhaps the reason I am so intrigued by this daffodil is that I imagine my 86 year old mother as a young girl picking bundles of twin sisters for Easter….

Little Sweeties

The intensely fragrant Little Sweetie is about the size of a dime.

The intensely fragrant Little Sweetie blossom is about the size of a dime.

Quite a few years ago, I was visiting my friends Bill and Lydia Fontenot in Louisiana about this time of year.  As we were taking a garden stroll, Bill picked a cute tiny golden jonquil, handed it to me and said something like “Check this out.”

As I closely examined the blossom, the sweetest scent ever drifted from the tiny jonquil cup and gave my olfactory nerves a pleasant jolt.   My happy brain sent a signal to my mouth which morphed into a silly grin.  I proceeded to sniff the little flower again and again.  I was having my first somewhat euphoric experience with a wild jonquil or Little Sweetie (Narcissus jonquilla).  

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word Narcissus is derived from a Greek word meaning “numbness, in ref. to the narcotic effects….”  Some would argue that the name was bestowed due to the poisonous nature of all narcissus bulbs.  I believe that the enticing floral scent of Little Sweeties have an almost narcotic quality as well.

This wild narcissus originated in damp grassy meadows in Spain and Portugal.  Little Sweeties are also widely naturalized in the state of Louisiana and can be found during chance encounters in other southern states.   All the varieties in the American Daffodil Society Division 7 have Narcissus jonquilla in their ancestry.  Little Sweeties are even one of the parents of my childhood favorite, the Campernelle jonquil.

It is amazing that such a powerful scent can be emitted by such a small flower.  The individual flowers of Little Sweetie are about the size of a dime.  They have a waxy sheen are arranged in small open clusters.

The leaves are blight emerald green, slender and rush-like.   They are in perfect scale with the diminutive flowers.  I’ve heard that Little Sweeties and their kin are called jonquils due to a corruption of the word Juncus which is the genus name for the rushes.

As soon as I discovered Little Sweeties, I had to have them in my own garden.  I began a serious quest and now have forms from Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas.

Last spring I sighted the first Little Sweeties I had ever seen in my North Mississippi hometown  I coerced my friend Bob into helping me pilfer some of them from the roadside.  I have also mail ordered an early and a late blooming strain.  Because, you see, I have to have my fix for as long as possible in the spring!

 

These Boots are made for Digging!


 

My magic boots in relaxation mode.  Today these boots were made for digging.
Here are my magic garden boots in relaxation mode.

There is no sun for us today and we had at least two more inches of rain last night.  It is cold, wet, cloudy and windy.

Even though I vowed to plant every possible day until March, I let myself off the hook today.   Then… I changed my mind and decided I would just do a little sweet digging – small pots in beds with good dirt.

I headed out with six deliriously happy dogs yipping at my heels.  First I planted a pot of unknown daffodils that had been abandoned in my old nursery.   They are budded like crazy and I wanted them to have the privilege of blooming in the ground.

Easy?  Yes – until I made the mistake of walking past my old rooting bed.

Three years ago I visited my friend Celia Jones at Sister’s Bulb Farm in Gibsland, Louisiana.  Celia loaded me down with treasured daffodils.  I got home and the proverbial fecal matter hit the fan.  First Tater Head, one of my feist dogs, had a mysterious seizure and disappeared never to be found again.  Then my husband ended up in the hospital for three days.  When it was determined that Richard was going to be okay, I took a short break, came home and started dealing with the garbage bags full of bulbs.

The rarest bulbs ended up temporarily heeled into my old rose rooting bed for safekeeping.  It’s been too shady for them to bloom there but they have grown and multiplied.  Today, on a  whim, I transplanted them to the Celia Jones section of Daffodil Drive.  It was cold miserable work, but I now have 12 varieties of daffodils settled into a new home in some real dirt.

I’ve been back indoors for almost an hour and I’m still not warm.  I’m not sure how I had the stamina to do all that planting.  It’s partly the fact that I made this vow, of course.  But I think that the magic garden boots on my feet spurred me on.

I definitely got my money’s worth out of those boots today.  I just hope they aren’t the gardening equivalent of the red shoes.

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