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a winter surprise

Oooh, I love surprises. There have been so many of them in my garden, things I never planted, or remember planting, springing up out of nowhere. Our very long driveway is lined with a patchy, weedy mess that is slowly eroding away but at one point someone had gardened there.

When we first moved in five years ago, a new fence had been installed, sufficiently blocking all light from the patch of yard between our house and the neighbors’. There was once a rose bush, which has never bloomed for me, and is hanging on by one lone cane which is dying back from the ground up. And there are hundreds of Oxblood Lilies, which, if given enough rain in late summer, transform this forlorn stretch of land into a gorgeous ribbon of bright amaryllis blooms.

So I was surprised this week to see some daffodils pushing up in the shadiest spot. I’ve never planted any there. There are many old tazettas that pop up around our property, all of which are “Grand Primo”, an heirloom southern bulb that grows against every old fenceline in our neighborhood. But when these finally opened up, they were something else. Hooray, another surprise!

I have really loved discovering and protecting all the old plantings on our property, some of which date back to the 1950s, I’m sure. When we ripped out our back deck last year, a whole line of Oxblood Lilies promptly pushed out of the newly exposed ground against the house. The old bulbs here include cannas, which I have not yet seen bloom, St. Joseph’s Lilies, and old Dutch iris planting, bearded irises, tazettas and oxalis (which to some people might be weeds but in my garden are a blessing since they bloom in near shade).

My surprise daffodil, I believe, is “Double Roman”, a double form of Narcissus tazetta orientalis, mostly white flowers but tinged with yellow at their throats. And the fragrance is divine, with the slight familiarity of daffodil and tazetta fragrance but a lot less cloying and musky. My husband said they smelled like sweet butter. The single-flowered version is as Chinese Sacred Lily and is the earliest narcissus to bloom in Austin.

Considering all the narcissus I’ve tried, I’m happy that there are rare heirloom daffodils from two generations ago popping up in my garden. It’s been at least 5 years since they’ve bloomed, at least since we moved in, perhaps more. I wonder why they’ve gotten so interested in showing up to the party now?

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