My apologies to those of you waiting for something plant-related! I have been so busy with design projects and exhibitions, all aimed at publicising my work locally, that the headlong rush of spring is in danger of passing me by completely. Severely delayed by the long, cold winter, the growth that was two or three weeks delayed a month ago is now advancing rapidly, and flowers that form the spring succession are beginning to appear simultaneously.
Those of you who have followed this blog for a while will be aware that I favour species and near-species cultivars - highly-bred plant varieties have an unnatural aspect that seem to deny their origin - I hate the cartoonish colours and ruffled double forms that are invariably offered as this season's must-have. A degree of reticence is a big plus in my book - I respond far more readily to the simple and unshowy.
I fell for this narcissus in a big way. Anonymously gracing the walks through Magdalen College meadows last spring, a small colony of these flowers lit up the dappled shade among simple anemones. It could well be N. 'Actaea', a division 9 narcissus, although the petals (properly: perianth segments) seem a bit too rounded and reflexed. Whatever, it is very close to an all-time favourite, N. poeticus var. recurvus, the poet's narcissus or old Pheasant's Eye. This, the latest to appear of all narcissi, deeply scented, brings the season of this essential and much-loved genus to a close in May, with its reflexed petals of waxy white and deep orange central cup (corona) edged in red. There is no more emblematic plant to mark the cusp of spring and summer, and if you can accommodate them in a wildish part of the garden and forget about them they will reward you with an annual display for decades. They are possibly the plant I miss most from my last garden, and which will be an essential inhabitant of my new patch. The image below shows a few of these in just such a setting.
There are other narcissi to be admired, though - see the list in the sidebar for some, familiar and unfamiliar, that are worth seeking out.