Historic Daffodils 1896, Abstract of paper – Scottish Horticultural Association 1897.

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For those interested in old cultivars.

This is the link, below should be a copy of the paper.  I wonder how many of the cultivars could still exist at the places mentioned on the site.

George Norris




  Meetings are held in the Association’s Rooms, No. 5 St

  Andrew Square, Edinburgh, on the First Tuesday of each

  Month, at 7-30 p.m. (prompt), with the exception of the

  January Meeting which is held on the SECOND Tuesday.




By R. J. SHILLINGTON, Valleyfield, Penicuik.

  Meeting, 5th May, 1896

–In writing this paper on the Daffodil it is not my intention to give its history.  To do so in a brief paper such as this would be impossible, and serve no useful purpose. Therefore I will confine the few remarks I have to make,  to the cultivation of Daffodils for cut flowers and conservatory decoration. Daffodils can be had in flower at a time when flowers are scarce in the majority of places–viz., the middle of January. To have them by this time we must have them potted by 10th August, and for a later supply the 10th September answers well. The soil I use for potting consists of good old loam, very little sand, a sprinkling of soot, and just a dash of burned refuse.  But, if the soil be heavy or retentive,  add lime rubble and a little spent mushroom manure. I have used this, and can recommend it.  I use pots eight inch in diameter, and put as many bulbs in the pot as I can, the more bulbs the more flower, and just as good. I prefer to plunge the pots in an open space in the kitchen garden, as a bed of coal ashes may become rather dry at this season of the year, whereas the Daffodil delights in moisture during all stages of growth.  I plunge them deep enough to allow the top of the pot to be six inches below the surface.  Boards or slates ought to be placed at the bottom for the pots to rest upon, and as a guard against worms.  As a rule I lift those that were potted in August about the beginning of October, and place in a cold frame.  They ought to be slightly shaded for a few days after lifting.  Use the syringe on bright days and give air—no matter how little–both night and day.  In the course of ten days or so, remove a few pots to a cool greenhouse or vinery–either will do—standing the pots as close to the glass as possible.  I find a temperature of 45′ suits them well until the flower stalk rises a few inches, after which they will bear a few degrees higher, say 50′.  As regards stimulants, a little soot water with just a pinch of guano is all that I give, and good results follow. 


Now, what sorts are we to grow to get the best return for our labour.  Trumpets find most favour for pots, and I think justly so.  The sorts I consider best are– Henry Irving,  Golden Spur,  Princeps,  Maximus,  Horsfieldii,  Emperor, Empress, Grandee, and Cyclamineus. The last-named is a splendid flower for bouquets or glasses, and does best in shallow pans without drainage. If pure white flowers are in dernand, Albicans and Colleen Bawn are best.


The INCOMPARABLIS section are smaller in size of flower, but nevertheless are well worthy of a place.  Sir Watkin is best of these, followed by Beauty, Guyther, Cynosure, Frank Miles, and Titan.  In the Leedsii section, Duchess of Westminster is the best.  I have grown a host of varieties in all three sections, with the result that I have chosen the above-named to be the most profitable for growing in pots.  The flowers last a long time in a cut state ; when mixed with their own foliage they are very bright indeed.  When the flowers are cut or die down, the pots containing the bulbs ought to be placed in a cold frame, or where they can be protected from a severe frost.  Watering will have to be looked after until the foliage dies down, when the bulbs can be shaken out and left to dry in the sun for a week or ten days.  If intended for flowering inside on a future occasion, tthey will require at least two years’ rest, and ought to be planted on a border in beds four feet wide, with the exception of Albicans and Colleen Bawn, which may be planted among the roots of blackcurrant bushes, and as close to the main stem as possible. Cyclamineus will do for two or three seasons in the same pan, with an annual top dressing.


I will now pass to the Daffodil grown in the garden.  Some of the strong growing sorts do first-rate in the herbaceous border–such as Emperor, Empress, Horsfieldii, Sir Watkin, Grandis, and Maximus.  I find the last named doing better here than in any other place where I have tried it, and ought to be planted nine inches deep.  Those who wish to grow a collection should, if possible, give them a site shaded from the morning sun.  Beds four feet wide, with a slight incline from back to front are best.  A border that has been cleared of early peas, spinach, or cauliflower suits them well, all that is required is to fork it over, tread firm, and form the beds–no manure of any sort. Trumpets may be planted seven inches between the rows and two inches between the bulbs.  The Incomparablis, or star narcissus, five inches between the rows, except Sir Watkin, which requires a little more.  I find all the star narcissus do best in a light, sandy soil, while trumpets seem to do in all soils.


Two things are essential to all narcissus, good drainage and a fair amount of moisture.  Some of the finer sorts we grow in cold frames, all the white trumpets are grown in this way, the compost being old red rock, silver sand, and charcoal.  Another frame is made up of good loam, sand, charcoal, and a little of the old rock. The stronger growing sorts are planted in this, such as Madame Plemp, Glory of Leyden, and Madame de Graaff (White), of Incomparablis, Glori Mundi, James Bateman, and Mabel Cowan, with several other sorts in both sections.  I don’t wish to convey the idea that they require to be grown in this special mixture in all gardens, but after various trials here–and I may add failures–this method had to be adopted.  Bulbs lifted every season increase much faster than those left undisturbed.


If you wish to lift your bulbs, the proper time to do so is as soon as the foliage dies down, leave them outside for a week or so, when they can be cleaned and placed in shallow boxes, removed to an open shed until such time as they can be again planted.  There is a rather wide difference of opinion as regards the proper time to plant the bulbs.  I have found from experience that their season of actual rest is very short, not more than three weeks.  That being so, we plant as soon as we have the bulbs dried and cleaned.  What I mean by this is, that if you lift one-half of your narcissus as soon as the foliage dies down, and leave the remaining half undisturbed for three weeks, you will find they have made a considerable number of fresh roots.  In short, we make a point of having all narcissus in the ground by 1st September, weather permitting.


The third method of growing the narcissus is to naturalise them.  There is no way in which they show their graceful flowers to such perfection as when planted in the grass.  All narcissus will thrive in this way, I think, without exception, and, in an ordinary season, a wealth of flowers can be had from the first week of March on to the middle of May, and this without a break.  You don’t need to mind as to the nature and quality of the soil, providing that it is not sour.  They are growing here in red clay, blue clay, gravel, light sandy soil, and in a dark sandy soil that you might pronounce fit for nothing ; all thrive well, and flower well, and that is all we require.


For the benefit of those who might wish to plant a few in this way, I will give a short list of varieties that I think best to start with.  The Tenby Daffodil is the earliest and one of the best, followed by Scoticus and Golden Spur, Emperor,  Empress, Horsfieldii, and Grandee. These are just a few, and can be added to at will.  The Incomparablis, or star section, are far more numerous in varieties.  These are the most chaste of all Daffodils for planting in the grass, hardly any two sorts coming into flower at the same time.  Sir Watkin is, perhaps, the best of this group, at least it finds most favour owing to its large flowers and strong constitution.  Duchess of Westminster is, I think, the best star narcissus grown, but perhaps a little too high in price for planting in quantity–flowers white.  Frank Miles, Titan, Figaro, Beauty, and Cynosure are all good, with many more to pick and choose from.  There is one trumpet Daffodil that I ought to have mentioned in the above list, that is, Johnstone’s Queen of Spain.  The flowers of this sort are rather small, of perfect form, and come into bloom here about 1st May.