Lawrence Trevanion, Australia

Growing Miniatures – Opinions 27/02/12

August 24, 2012

Categories: Bulb Information, Daffodil Types, Growing Daffodils, Historics, Hybridizer, Hybridizing, Miniatures, Planting, Pots, Seedling, Soil

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Hi Steve, Just a few tentative thoughts on keeping miniatures.

I have found that it is often easier to grow miniatures in the field than in pots. I have lost apodanthus, triandrus, cyclamineus in pots and boxes yet in the field some thrive. Temperature may be the key. Perhaps smaller bulbs are more susceptible than large ones BECAUSE they are small.

It may be the case that these types are unsuited to drying and storage and the ideal form of sale/exchange is NOT the traditional method of ‘dormant’ bulbs, but rooted bulbs lifted or pot-grown early in the spring, which are then immediately replanted (not in pots). Similarly, it might be better to lift and divide early in the spring during growth rather than in summer.


………………………………………………….. Over the years, I have been sent a number of private e-mails asking why a particular Miniature that was exhibited on a show bench or submitted as a photo on DaffNet has not yet been Selected for evaluation or marked for same or even named and available for purchase. The answers to these questions strongly relates to the topic of growing Miniature Daffodils. These are my opinions; not necessarily hard scientific fact but my opinions based on 23 years of experience raising and growing Miniature Daffodils here in Sherwood, Oregon. Other growers, raisers and hybridizers in other climates and in other parts of the world might well have had totally different experience. The opinions DO NOT APPLY to Standard Daffodils. Modern, often tetraploid, Standard Daffodils seem to “work” quite differently from their Miniature relatives.

To me, Miniature Daffodils are enchanting, lovely, and exciting. At the same time, I also find them maddening, frustrating, and sometimes downright depressing. My experience with growing Miniatures closely parallels their history. One need only to go to Alec Gray’s catalog(s) from fifty or sixty years ago or the A. D. S. Approved Miniatures List(s) from the 1970s or even the 1980s to realize how VERY few, highly touted and apparently well received things actually remain in commerce. So many are, for all practical purposes, extinct. See what I mean about being downright depressing!

The overall grow-ability of Miniatures, especially seedlings as well as my Selections, has been maddening. I can’t tell you (or possibly won’t tell you) of the huge number of losses I have had and still experience in both Miniature Seedlings and their Selections. On occasion, I have had as many as 29 bulbs of a Selection, seemingly growing well without a care or concern. These are lined out again and in a single year or two, nary a leaf or a wisp of foliage ever shows again. These losses or the rapid decline symptoms of what I call suffering from “the Dwindles”, seem to have no pattern or discernible organic cause. I have spent many hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on both soil and necrotic tissue tests that have only given me results back of rot or fusarium. Oh, thanks a lot, I knew it rotted but why???

In what may be a futile attempt to do things differently, I have pulled way, way back from rapidly naming and introducing Miniatures. I have lengthened the evaluation time by many years. I now desperately try to hold to the personal rule of NEVER Selecting any Miniature without having at least five discreet blooming size bulbs that have given at least seven to nine flowers in the year of Selection. Once I start my “official” Selection process, I’m in for at least five to seven years of annual lifting along with an additional five years of ultimate field line-outs. I do use a rigorous spray program, prophylacticly applying what I should, when I should, with absolute minimum amounts called for. I seem to be growing things really well but it may be that others are far better growers than I.

The less junk or marginal stuff of mine that I handle, the better I like it. A lighter workload is a good thing! The health and vigor never shows up in the DaffNet photos or on the show bench. I think this is just another way of me winnowing down the stupid Miniatures (or so I try and convince myself). Regardless of retail price, I am trying to hold to not introducing any Miniature without having a stock of at least 60 or so bulbs. Ideally, I would like to do my utmost best to make certain that every Selection and/or named Miniature grows as well as their Standard sized brethren.

From a purely mercenary standpoint, these growing decisions have, quite frankly, been unbelievably stupid. The interest and demand for the new Miniatures is quite high. I do think that these personal decisions are better viewed as long term decisions that will benefit the daffodil world, my future customers, and hopefully all future growers of Miniatures.


2 responses to “Growing Miniatures – Opinions 27/02/12”

  1. Stephen Vinisky, Oregon Stephen Vinisky says:

    Hi Lawrence,

    Sorry for the delayed REPLY. I was at the largest hort. industry trade show held in the western U.S. until yesterday.
    Thanks for your thoughtful e-mail. I have said many times that I simply am not able to grow things as well in pots as in the ground. In pots things grow OK but I can’t get the weight or size of the bulbs as I can in the ground. It may be that I’m not as good a grower as others but my real sense of the matter is that the extremes (moisture, heat, sun, etc.) are higher in pots. I recall reading that the old timers in England mentioned that when “forcing” bulbs in pots for exhibition, it often took four years in the ground to recover. The last comment has been my experience. I am in complete agreement with your ideas. The vast majority of things here are raised in the ground. I do use beds raised 10″ to 12″ above ground as well (mostly for raising seedlings) but all also have complete ground contact which seems to help mitigate the extremes.
    I do also dig the Miniatures last and replant them first. I have noticed that they do tend to lose weight rapidly when out of the ground. I’m frankly less than enthused over the idea of moving things “in the green”. I’ve bred with (and raised) many Galanthus. I tried moving them in the green (as they still apparently do) in the UK. The setback was much more noticeable and quite severe. Dormant bulbs suffer much less in my experience. 
    Not at all certain what the exact answer(s) might be. It is still a puzzle. The more I think that I know, the less I’m 100% certain about anything!
    Please do keep the excellent ideas coming. It was great to hear from you.
    With kindest regards and all good wishes,

  2. David Adams says:
    Hi Steve,
    The last two years I have not lost any miniatures and, this year, I have cultivars flowering that have not flowered for years.
    I readily acknowledge that this may be lucky, that it may be seasonal or that it may reflect some changes that I have made.
    My patch of N cyclamineus only had about 50 flowers this year but I have now established it in four locations. It needs summer shade in my view. I lose it in pots.
    Cultivars such as Minnow, Little Gem, Canaliculatus do not do well in pots and only flower for me when grown in open ground, dry conditions.
    However the biggest changes come for the rest. These changes have been adopted directly from advice given to me by Malcolm Wheeler who grows his miniatures pretty well. I have changed to using a propriety potting mix. It is bark based and is marketed as ‘Bulb Potting Mix.’ For Kiwis, I prefer Daltons mix. Tui is useless.
    I put 1cm gravel in the bottom of the pot and a covering on top of the mix after planting. On Malcolm’s advice I empty the bulbs from their pot, divide them as required and immediately replant them as above. The key to this seems to be that they are replanted at a similar temperature to when they are lifted. This is done at any time during dormancy.
    The pots are now kept in a shade house which gets dry in summer but is cool.
    The English use plunge beds extensively. You might experiment with double pots creating air insulation between the pots. I believe it works well.