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Chinese Sacred Lily

Narcissus orientalis

Narcissus tazetta orientalis

Unfortunately, I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing this narcissus bloom yet, but I’m not giving up on it. (Note: more recent update below.) I read in a local garden blog that perhaps they need more cold than our winters provide. And yet a seemingly conflicting fact about them is that their native habitat is coastal and they are being sold as better narcissus for warmer, more coastal winters. Go figure. (I keep going back to what one local nursery owner said to me, “It’s all a crapshoot, anyway.”)

Perhaps, like so many other bulbs, you might have the species but there are Dutch-grown kinds and the Southern heirloom kinds–and it all depends where your bulbs come from. Dutch-grown kinds may have adapted to colder climates. In any case, I bought mine from a Texas heirloom seller, and they are planted along with Grand Primo, Campernellesthis blog post where I wax not so poetically on paperwhites.)

Update: December 29, 2008. Just in time for Christmas, the first bloom opened from one of these bulbs. Last spring I moved a bunch of bulbs around, putting some in small containers and piling them in a neglected shady corner. I’d forgotten all about these containers until early November, when I saw leaves start to poke out. I debated whether to plant them in the ground or not, but in the end just decided to leave them in the container and nestle that in one of my front flower beds. Within a month all of the bulbs started sending up small bloom stalks.

As I had heard, Chinese Sacred Lily has a delightful fragrance, much more potent than all my other narcissus. It still has the musky understones of tazettas and paperwhites, but very sweet and citrusy on top. I love their bright, golden-yellow cups, similar to the Avalanche tazettas but even more bright.

February 2009. I discovered lovely and equally fragrant double form of this tazetta blooming miraculously under a pecan tree last month. See the entry on ‘Double Roman’ and my journal entry about finding it.

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