The greatest winter delight in my garden is Narcissus minor ‘Cedric Morris’. This little treasure is only 25 centimetres tall and I have been waiting anxiously for the buds to open. If you are thinking that this is a little early, it is actually slightly later than usual. I don’t know why, it hasn’t been very cold. The flowers are often open for Christmas and they last for ages, sometimes until March and they seem impervious to bad weather. It is by far the earliest daffodil in the garden; earlier even than Rijnveld’s Early Sensation which gets going later this month. A frosty morning may find the flowers lying face down looking a bit sad but they always perk up again. They are bright yellow with emerald green shading towards the stem and lovely frilled edges. This perfectly formed miniature daffodil is difficult to find. Beth Chatto sells it but you have to order it early in the year. If you find the right place for it the bulbs will increase. They clump up nicely although they don’t seem to set seed. It does seem to suffer from narcissus fly though and may suddenly disappear. I had a wonderful clump which had gradually increased over the years and the whole lot disappeared one year and I had to start again. I think this must have been narcissus fly. Now I am always careful not to plant it in full sun. It needs the protection of other plants so that these pests can’t sniff it out. It needs good drainage and plenty of humus. Slugs love it and there is nothing more heart breaking than to find the buds you have been watching for days chewed off. It is worth any effort to please it though.
You probably know the story. A friend of Cedric Morris, Basil Leng found it growing on a rocky ledge in Spain more than fifty years ago. He was a keen gardener with an amazing garden in the South of France where he grew tree peonies and unusual bulbs. He was driving along the north coast of Spain one cold winter’s day when he spotted a clump of this on a steep bank near a railway viaduct close to the fishing village of Luarca. He stopped the car and tried to reach it by standing on the roof of his car. A girl who was passing saw what he was trying to do and being more athletic than he was managed to reach the daffodils. Basil Leng’s story is that when she tried to pick him a daffodil the whole clump, fifty bulbs came out, showering the car with bulbs and stones. He took the lot. And from those 50 bulbs all our stock is descended. As far as I know, no one has found it growing round there since. From today’s perspective it seems an act of quite appalling vandalism to grub out the whole clump of a rare plant but people never seemed to bother about this sort of thing then. It is extraordinary that people considered themselves quite at liberty to travel the world and pillage other countries’ flora. I am grateful Basil Leng did collect it though; winter wouldn’t be the same without this little treasure to cheer us through the darkest days.
Cedric Morris gave Beth Chatto one bulb which she propagated She tells the tale of giving Sir Cedric a potful of this lovely narcissus for his ninetieth birthday because his clump had died out. After his death Beth asked Leng’s permission to call it ‘Cedric Morris’. It is quite expensive but believe me, it is worth every penny. I would love to hear if anyone else grows this narcissus and if yours is in bloom yet.