A Failure of Narcissism

For someone who prides himself on having a green thumb, I have proven surprisingly pathetic at growing daffodils. I am blaming it on the soil, and possibly the critters in the backyard, because it can’t be anything I’ve done or neglected to do.

When we moved into our home, that first Fall I planted a group of Poet’s narcissus among the pachysandra that filled every available spot in our backyard. I amended the soil with a generous heaping of bone meal (since pines were in the area, I wanted to temper any acidity in the ground, as well as fortify any blooming power in the bulb). Set about six inches deep, they slept through the winter, as I dreamt of drifts of Wordsworthian daffodil blooms come the Spring. I had set out a decent number of Narcissus poeticus ‘Actaea’ – the Pheasant’s Eye Narcissus, as they had a nice late bloom season, but when they finally came up, it was a bit of a disappointment. Maybe my memory was exaggerating the thickness of the leaves, and the height of the blooms, but these were much less than anticipated, and the next year only a few measly leaves surfaced, minus any blooms.

Thinking it may have been the tangle of pachysandra roots that proved too much for the bulbs, I tried again the following Fall, giving them their own little space near the house. The soil was a little sandy, but I figured that would be better for drainage. I prepared the spot in the same way – amending with bone meal, six inch depth – and had grand hopes of swaths of yellow flowers colonizing and taking over the small space. I also put in some grape hyacinths beside them, to test whether this otherwise-unkillable bulb would suffer a similar fate. The next Spring the daffodils and grape hyacinths came up, but weakly. The following year there were just slender, and short, leaves. There was nothing after that.



Last Fall, I again succumbed to the promise of Spring, and bought a few packages of pink cupped daffodils, and a few large red-cupped ‘Fortuna’ bulbs – big, hearty, substantial things that looked and felt like they could charge through any number of winters. I also tried a small grouping of golden-hued miniatures. So far, they are performing adequately enough, but there’s still a bit of the same delicate first year hesitation – a bit late, and not as robust as more established clumps I jealously see in the neighbors’ yards. I do not have much faith in them, but such is the lot of any gardener. Failure is a part of the game. We’ll see if these come back strong next year, or if my yard just wasn’t made to have daffodils.

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