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Tête-à-tête Time

September 28, 2010

It’s bulb-planting time – both in the garden and in the nursery.

I’ve spent the last week or so planting bulbs – first the cutflowers (daffodils and tulips) in trays, and now I’ve moved on to the pots – more tulips, hyacinths, crocuses, snowdrops, grape hyacinths, and now I’ve reached the last, and most important boxes – the ‘Tête-à-tête’ daffodils (Narcissus cyclamineus):

I had a bit of a disagreement with the delivery driver about these boxes - he thought we should just carry them to where we needed them. I thought he should drive around to the back of the nursery and unload them where we needed them - because those boxes (60x40x25 cm) are pretty damn heavy! I can't lift them, let alone carry them - have to drag them along the floor!

The ‘Tête-à-tête’ daffodils (Narcissus cyclamineus).

I’m not very fond of them. They are everywhere, every year, and they are just so boring. Boring like red pelargoniums or wax begonias. But they sell well, so grow them we must.

The name also annoys me. I never know how to spell it, and I google, but then I decide not to trust my search results and have to get up and get a bulb catalogue after all. And I’m never quite sure how to pronounce it, either. I’m sure I’m not mangling it as badly as some of my one-time colleagues, but it’s a prime example for one of my favourite lines: ‘If you can’t pronounce it, it must be French.’

Daffodil bulbs usually come in clumps, rarely as single bulbs

The only good things that I can say about them is that they do have a nice bright colour, which is welcome early in the year, and that they are small. Boring as they may be, at least they’re not the ordinary big yellow Narcissus pseudonarcissus varieties like ‘Dutch Master’ or ‘Golden Harvest’.

I’ve spent a full day at the potting machine now, planting those bulbs. The potting machine (which I intend to post about some day, when I’ve got time and nothing else to write about) fills the pots with potting mix (bulbs get their special mix, half all-purpose potting soil and half propagation substrate), but I have to put the bulbs in by hand. I usually start with the biggest clump I can find, digging a little hole with my fingers and putting it in:

Then I fill up the remaining space with smaller clumps and single bulbs, squeezing in as many as I can. Three’s the minimum.

Then the pot go into trays, and the trays go into the space between two of the greenhouses, for now:

When it gets colder, I think they’ll be stored in one of the greenhouses and in the cellar, but I don’t know for sure yet – it’s my first year there, after all.


Can it really be nearly a year since I left the Apprenticeship Place? Sorting out the bulbs was one of my last tasks there, and what ‘fun’ it was – several pallets, all stacked two metres high with bulb boxes. Being the short person I am, I could only just reach the bottom of the topmost box with my fingertips. Standing on tiptoe, I could pull them to the side so they’d slide down – and it’s not nice, having to catch something that’s so heavy you couldn’t lift it from the floor! I ended up with quite a few bruises.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 2, 2010 04:21

    Oh, gosh, that’s a lot of work! I don’t mind Narcissus varieties, but I know lots of people can’t stand the way they smell. I get why they’d be boring to you, though.

  2. October 3, 2010 11:33

    Did you pot all of those up yourself? How long did it take?

    I’d like to defend Tete-a-tete, and all the other tiny narcissus, if I may. They’re just perfect for a small, dark blue antique Bromo-Seltzer bottle that I’ve had for ages. The bright yellow flowers in the blue bottle look darling on the dispensing table in my shop. Customers always marvel at them (“Are these real?” they say, crushing a petal to make sure).

    I have masses of them growing under a Styrax japonicus and it looks like a ground cover of gold.

    I use pansies in the bottle, too, but they always smell a bit like cat pee to me, so the narcissus are preferable for that reason.

    • October 3, 2010 21:24

      I can imagine them looking good in a dark blue bottle! Blue and yellow is just too pretty.
      I don’t mind them in the garden so much, either.

      I think it took me about a week to get all those bulbs potted up/planted in trays. The ones in the picture were about four days’ work. But that’s with spending a couple of hours each day watering and serving customers.

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