Where Horticulture Meets History

Narcissus ‘Telamonius Plenus’

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Every plant has a story.  And these stories are as laced with adventure, intrigue, (plant) lust and great friendships as any you might hear.

Take the little Daffodil, Narcissus ‘Telamonius Plenus.’   This is the oldest known ‘double’ daffodil, and records tell us that it’s first spring to flower was in 1620, in the London garden of immigrant Vincent Sion, who was Flemish.  His friends admired this little flower so much, that eventually he shared some of his bulbs with friends.  Several other names attach to this little flower, derived from these first gardeners to enjoy it.

You may hear it called ‘Van Scion’ for the original grower, or perhaps ‘Wilmer’s Great Double Daffodil’ after George Wilmer, one of Scion’s friends who received those original bulbs.

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Double Van Scion, or Guernsey Double Daffodil

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We found the very doubled Narcissus in the photo above growing in our garden during our first spring here in 2010.  I’d never noticed a Daffodil quite like this before.  But in reading about N. ‘Telemonius Plenus’, or N. ‘Van Scion,’ I’ve learned that these two forms of the original double Daffodil seem to be named interchangeably and share a long history together.  So this one also dates back to 17th Century England, and likely made it to Virginia in the baggage of early colonists.

This clump proves very hardy and prolific.    We have a few clumps of these growing in the front garden now, and I want to perhaps divide these in a few weeks to spread them around a bit more.

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This variety is known for the tinges of green on its petals.

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Once upon a time, one’s garden reflected one’s friendships.  Plant lust remains one of the passions good friends share, just as it was in the early days of exploration and hybridization.

We hear of transcontinental friendships where American colonists collected seeds and cuttings to ship back to their botanical buddies in England, Holland and France.  European gardeners had unlimited faith in the ‘new world’ to proffer new fruits and nuts, flowers, ferns and useful trees.

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And the most promising of these plants took root in the great gardens of Europe first, shared among friends, before finally entering the nursery trade.

Likewise, American colonists ordered seeds and favorite plants from their contacts back in Europe to plant in their newly cleared gardens.  Many of the plants we grow here now came to us from Asia, by way of Europe, sometime over the last 400 years.

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Another double Narcissus we grow, which probably came to us from Brent and Becky Heath’s bulb shop.

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Even today, friendships can be cemented through favorite plants shared with one another.  We give of our gardens, we give of ourselves.  Like so many other things we love, plants outlive us.  Their propagation proves part of our legacy.

How many of us nurture a shrub grown from a cutting given to us by a loved one?  How many of us divided perennials from our parents’ garden to start our own?  How many of us grow plants today that were given to us by loved ones?

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Plants given in love are nurtured, protected, propagated and eventually passed on to others.  This is how we keep the old varieties going strong, even as newly hybridized or collected plants are introduced for our consideration each and every year.

Woodland Gnome 2017

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This lovely Daffodil is blooming all over our garden this week. A gift from our neighbor, who dug and divided his Daffodils in the fall of 2015, it blooms this year for us.  He gave me a whole bucked of unknown Daffodil bulbs, and I happily planted them everywhere!

 

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About woodlandgnome

Lifelong teacher and gardener.

5 responses to “Where Horticulture Meets History

  1. What an interesting story this is! I too nurture plants in my garden that originated from family and friends. Indeed, one of the attractions of choosing our present house was being greeted by plants that reminded me of my childhood.

    • Always a wonderful blessing to inherit a garden someone has loved and nurtured over many years- and find the plants one loves! Peonies always do it for me…. Thank you for visiting, Anne.

  2. That same double was in our garden when we moved here, too. What a long history it has, a tough little bulb! Before there were commercial nurseries, the only way to procure new plants was by sharing and barter. Many of my first plants were gifts from others’ gardens and the gardener’s memory is forever tied to those plants, making a stroll through the garden a happy one.

    • I’m just fascinated, Eliza, that the same heirloom Narcissus was growing in your garden, too! But yours is also an historic area, populated since the era when that bulb was introduced. Our neighborhood wasn’t developed until mid-20th century, so ours was surely planted by the first gardener to plant here. I wonder how long yours had been growing in your garden when you first found it? Have you divided and spread yours around? I admire bulbs so much for their toughness and their history. I always remember that Marco Polo was traveling to trade Crocus bulbs all those centuries ago! Yes, plants given to us by friends always have the special glow of memories and good feelings around them ❤ ❤ ❤

      • The house was built in 1957, but the town was established in the mid-1700’s – so there’s no telling when the first ones came to our area. However, it is rather common around here, so no doubt it was well shared. I’ve moved clumps around over the years, but I tend to naturalize my daffs, so they don’t get the best attention! They are hardy bulbs. 🙂

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