Judging from comments left here and at GWI, I’m guessing that not everyone is familiar with the wide range of winter narcissus forcing available for gardeners who, like me, have a touch of cabin fever. Once, I, too, was content with the box or bag of Ziva paperwhites you could pick up anywhere. But a couple things about them are less than satisfactory: their flowers are just a bit measly (though there are many flowering scapes) and seem to decline quickly, and the scent is not for everyone.
I noticed that mail order places like Brent and Becky’s had a lot more ”paperwhites” to offer, and began to experiment. But first it has to be clear that these are all division 8 narcissus; a Ziva paperwhite is just as much a tazetta as the variety you see above. They are hardy in zones 8-10, and I’ve heard grow wild in Southern California. Nomenclature is an issue; you’ll see variants of these called Jerusalem, Nazareth, and other biblical-sounding names (narcissus are native—with exceptions—to the Mediterranean), and the names seem to vary from vendor to vendor. It’s kind of a mess, and I think I need some better reference materials to sort it out, as my Botanica disagrees with Old House Gardens and other usually reliable vendor sources on a number of points.
Basically, the reason I like tazettas is that I can force them indoors and enjoy them in the dead of winter. In fact, I’m liking these now more than I’ve ever liked the early spring daffodils I’ve grown. Late cold spells can destroy them and then the foliage has to be left for months. (They are great en masse in parks and by roadsides, though.)
This year I forced two heirloom varieties: Early Pearl and Grand Primo. The Early Pearl smells exactly like a zone 5 daffodil: very fresh. Old House recommended a 2-week chilling period, which worked out fine. (They look just like what Brent and Becky’s call Nazareth, with no chilling period required. Yet, I have occasionally had bad results with Nazareth.) You see above a variety called Gold Rain (just now opening) from Brent and Becky’s; that and Grand Soleil d’Or are two very pretty yellow/orange varieties.
My sense of these is that the trickier (and cooler-looking ones) should have a brief period in a cold room or root cellar, and that they all need full sun after that. They’ll flop all over the place and produce brown buds, otherwise. Bottom line, now that I can grow singles, doubles, and different colors, I’m having more fun with these than with any of the zone 5-hardy divisions I’ve ever had outside.Posted by Elizabeth Licata on January 20, 2008 at 12:00 pm, in the category It's the Plants, Darling.