what narcissus is it? (and who moved my labels?)

Varieties of Narcissus from the gardenHAVING AN OLD GARDEN HAS ITS POSITIVES—AND PITFALLS. Yes, there are grown-in plants, enough to divide, spread around and share–if only you could find the names of the damn things. Nowhere is my “what happened to the label?” plight more dire than among the Narcissus, some of the very first things I planted 25 years ago. This year I’m trying to catalog them on “film” and do the homework to give them names again. Can you help, perhaps?

I promise myself I’ll do this every spring: cut one of each kind of daffodil here, record it with the camera, track down its name. And then spring gets away from me. I did manage to get the dozen above and another few below so far, though, before they withered; I missed the little extra-early guys–again.

fragrant white narcissusComparing old notes and current catalog photos, I did pretty well with this batch, but that small-cupped yellow beauty (bottom row, far left, of top photo) with the orange rim is going to elude me, I can just tell, and some of the others look like certain varieties except they’re smaller or bigger than they’re supposed to be according to the listings I can find. Here’s where I am so far (with my “notes to self” in parentheses):

Top photo, left to right:

Top row: ‘Tahiti,’ ‘King Alfred,’ ‘Mount Hood,’ ‘Ice King’

Middle row: (like ‘Spellbinder’?), (like ‘Acropolis’ but smaller?), (came with pink-cupped mix, no way to I.D.), (like ‘Merlin’ but big!)

Bottom row: (unknown), ‘Barrett Browning,’ ‘Thalia,’ ‘February Gold’

Photo of white varieties, left to right:

Top row: (don’t know; like a giant ‘Cheerfulness’), (‘Ice King’ faded to white, as it ages?)

Bottom row: ‘White Lion,’ ‘Ice Follies’

ALL HELP IS WELCOME! The first person to figure out that yellow one trimmed so daintily in orange might just get a prize…. And even if you have no names to name, tell me this: Anything over there lurking label-less in your garden? Anybody whose name you just cannot recall? It happens to the best of us (or so I’m telling myself).

More about Narcissus:

  • My Flower-Bulb FAQ page includes what to do about non-blooming clumps; if and when to feed, and when to remove fading foliage, among other issues.
  1. Catherine says:

    I have this problem, though my garden is much younger as I’ve only had the house for 4 years ;) . My mother and I collect irises (mostly germanica) and I have tried to keep them labeled with fancy sticks and what not. Unfortunately they invariably get relocated by weather or helpful children or animals. Since I also end up taking a ton of photos I just started tagging them with their names so I can figure it out all over again next year!

    For my other plants I keep telling myself that all those saved plant tags from when I bought them will turn into a nice little spreadsheet with photo links someday… lol someday….

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Catherine. Oh, irises — that can be tricky, can’t it? And as far as that instant spreadsheet — keep me informed if you find the program that does it for you, won’t you? :)

  2. Abby says:

    I planted “naturalizing” daffodils, which I think is another way to say they are unlabeled. Is there a difference between daffodils and narcissus? They look the same to me.

  3. Brian G. says:

    The one that you say is like a giant ‘Cheerfulness’ looks to me like ‘Sir Winston Churchill’. I have a lot of those. Very fragrant.

  4. Marilyn Wilkie says:

    I believe the yellow one with the orange lipped center may be Red Devon, 1943. It looks like the photo in the Old House Gardens catalog. Named for the historic “red” cattle of Devonshire.

  5. I’ve never thought of taking much note of daffodil names – but then, I hadn’t realised there are so many daffodils to have names. The one on the bottom right (Ice Follies) strikes me as especially delicate and pretty.


  6. Patricia Tryon says:

    What a relief to know that I’m not alone in having lost track of some names. One can always ask a face about his or her name, but plants (at least mine) are not quite as obliging ;-)

  7. Catherine says:

    I must admit when I was about eight, a neighbor lady was very mean to me… she screamed at me to get out of her garden when I was just admiring it. Sooo… a few days later I traded about her tags, which had no meaning to me, but apparently did to her. Perhaps some naughty child has visited your garden?

  8. Mariann says:

    If you did not plant some of the really old narcissi, maybe it is Large cupped N. Ceylon? I looked at pictures from a couple of sources and it looks most like it in the picture from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs. Both Colorblends and VanEngelen’s photos show less red rim definition in the perianth. When I get home, I will check my Daffodils for North American Gardens. Who ever she is, she is a beauty.

  9. Mariann says:

    Opps, forgot to look at the double. I agree that Sir Winston Churchill might be an option or how about Manley? Winston Churchill is a little later blooming than Manley, my Manley is blooming now- and this year we seem to be about the same…

  10. Terryk says:

    I can’t give you any extra hints but do love them. I just received your e-mail newsletter and the narcissus bouquests are charming. What ones are in the right hand pitcher (the ones with the green in the outer leaves). Talk about sweet bouqets, they must make you smile each time you go past the window.

  11. Jane says:

    My question is about the pitcher on the left. My mother (83 yo) has one that looks very similar and she has told us that it was carried by family from Germany when they arrived by boat in the US. Is your pitcher an antique?

    1. Margaret says:

      Thanks, Sandra, and welcome! I love the Van Engelen/Scheepers catalogs. Just didn’t spy that one…not everything is pictured I guess in the print version, and I must have scrolled past it online. Wonderful news.

  12. Martha says:

    You have a wonderful variety- so many different looks!

    Could the mystery narcissus (yellow with orange-y rim) be Perimeter? for some reason I can’t copy and post the photo I found, but here is the description from backyardgardener.com.

    ( Perimeter Narcissus )

    A small-cupped daffodil producing flowers with yellow petal segments and a cup bearing a ring of orange at the mouth. The solitary flowers appear on leafless stems. Basal leaves are green and strap-shaped. ”

    PS I also saw a photo on marthastewart.com with a bouquet of Perimeters, though they seem to be a much paler yellow than yours,

  13. plantingoaks says:

    The middle right looks an awful lot like one I bought last year and is blooming now called ‘velazquez’. Of course, in the intervening time, the internet seems to have erased all trace of if. But I swear I didn’t make it up.

    As to your mystery bottom left: maybe ‘ceylon’ or ‘pinza’? The colors but not really the shape are a bit like ‘delibes’. Honestly, I think you might have to grow all three of those together to be able to tell the difference, they look awfully similar in pictures to me. Google images suggest pinza may have the narrowest petals, so my vote goes for that one.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Martha. I will look up ‘Perimeter,’ thank you very much. Great to have these leads from readers…so helpful!

      Welcome, Planting Oaks. I am looking all your suggestions up, too, thank you. I don’t think it’s ‘Ceylon’ (a friend has that and it’s somewhat different, but the others…we shall see!

      Welcome Patrick’s Garden. You sound like me! At least we love them, nameless or otherwise, right?

      Thanks to all for the help as I puzzle this out!

  14. Jeanne says:

    Hi Margaret, your daffs are lovely. The only ones I have left blooming are the poeticus and I still haven’t had my fill. Thanks for posting the pics!

    The upper left white double reminds me of Flower Drift. Of the flowers in your other photo, I would compare the first bloom in the second row to Hillstar, and the first bloom in the third row to Barrii Conspicuus. Both of those tend to fade out drastically as they age so photos that you find on the web may vary. Hope that helps.


  15. theresa says:

    Dear Margaret,
    I love your garden and wish I wasn’t so fearful of destroying a loved plant .
    My hydrangea is now with green leaves ,I am still not certain if I will see flowers this year ….. I intend to cut it back as suggested in pruning at the end of the summer season. I wasn’t able to send a photo [ old computer ] but thank you for all the advice
    available to me through your site . I especially loved the Narcissus .
    Happy May , Theresa

    1. Margaret says:

      Hi, Theresa. Glad to help. The longer you garden and just try things the more confidence you get — I am braver now that I was years ago, after so many “experiments” here. :) See you soon again, I hope.

  16. Linda Pastorino says:

    I have tried all labeling except impression tags done by arboretums. It would cost a small forturne. All scratched, inked, penciled (all with water proofed application) are all gone, blank. It is frustrating. I thought it was so good buying tons of them even copper ones that would mellow with age. I have in the past made careful placement records and taken photos every year however, there are many cultivars I have missed labeling or recording that have eluded me. I’m now trying a water proof paper system that i will stick on the used blank metal tags that i have in the hundreds. If that works I will let you know! or if you know of a franking machine that is sold to do it yourself arboretum tagging system, that is also appreciated. They look good and last.

  17. Catherine says:

    Dear Linda… no one cares. The children who visit are not snobs, a bouquet knows no name, the admirers passing by are not looking at tags. Please dear relax… wander and give in to all the loveliness that IS… My garden, unflagged, is almost 40 years old. Please come visit… I’ll let you rest in the shade. Catherine
    http:// http://www.gardening4us.com

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