Autumn is a reflective time, a slow page-swipe from sultry, busy summer.
As the day length slowly dwindles and nights get cooler, fall wildflowers light up the countryside, and even poison ivy’s fall colors appear to be red and yellow flames licking up into trees. Where friends have patio fireplaces fueled from gas cannisters, my old iron fire bowl is the real deal, replete with smoke that takes me back to days far more ancient than my childhood.
Chores are more earnest now, with fallen leaves heaping everywhere in need of raking or blowing into a mounded kaleidoscope of colorful foliage.
What’s the difference? In a word, nothing. Narcissus is the Latin name for all daffodils; all daffodils are Narcissus.
Though few do well along the Gulf Coast (Tete a Tete, jonquillas, and paperwhites are best to start with), most are perfectly hardy in the ground as perennials. I have over two dozen different varieties that have been blooming for years in my garden that came from my great-grandmother’s garden, planted the back in the 1930s.
They are best planted in the fall, or soon after their foliage dies down in the spring. Because they form flower buds for the following year after they finish flowering in the spring, it’s important to let them finish flowering and give them at least five or six weeks, or for their leaves to turn yellow, before cutting and neatening old foliage; otherwise they may skip a year or more before flowering again.
Here are some of my great-grandmother’s bulbs blooming in my garden:
Bulbs, tubers, corms, whatever – they are solid, fleshy little things that you plant in the ground and they sprout roots, leaves, and often flowers. Most come and go throughout the year; some are hardy outside in the ground, some are tender and have to be replanted every year.
Classic passalong bulbs for the Southeast include daffodils, painted Arum, huge Crinum lilies, low-growing star flower (Ipheion), red Amaryllis, Lycoris (both the red “spider lily” and pink “naked ladies”), Spanish bluebells, summer snowflake (Leucojum, with little white bells with green dots, often confused with snowbells which grow better farther north), magenta hardy Gladiolus (G. byzantinus), tall summer-flowering Philippine lily, hidden ginger (Curcuma), elephant ears, garlic, and tiger lily. There are others of course!
They’re plants that everyone grows, but hardly anyone buys…
Each has a strong value or combination of values -pretty, fragrant, extra productive, long-flowering, family heirloom, fascinating history, whatever – making it desirable by a lot of different kinds of gardeners.
Each is easy to grow without special soil preparation, extra watering or other horticultural finesse, and grows well in a wide range of conditions.
Each is relatively insect and disease free – I mean, who wants a plant that is always boogered up?
And, most importantly, each is easy to propagate by seed, division, or cutting, else it won’t be easy to share.
Most folks think their neighborhood is a special place to live, but I give my little town-within-a city extra points for how it has dealt with falling between the potholed cracks when tastemakers passed through.
Not braggin’, just sayin’.
We’re certainly not better than others, it just doesn’t matter. While we have our share of VIPs and upmarket homes, some of our areas are not as well-heeled or as “precious” as nearby other communities; still, we feel loosely akin, wary lifeboat passengers from different decks of a foundering ship, doing our best to pull together.