Growing Narcissi on the Isles of Scilly

The green-fingered amongst you may be interested in how we grow our narcissi here at Churchtown Farm, what varieties we plant and why. Hopefully, we will answer a few of your burning questions right now. The Isles of Scilly are renowned for consistently and successfully growing narcissi between October and April each year, with a lot of help from our lovely, clement climate. We chose to specialise in the multi-headed ‘Tazetta’ type, due to it’s beautiful scent. Other daffodil-type narcissus are often unscented, so are lovely to look at, but don’t fill the house with the smell of Spring as ours do.

Yellow Narcissi

Stunning Yellow Narcissi

Our Narcissi Varieties

We tend to favour the traditional varieties of narcissi including Soleil d’Or, Paper White and Golden Dawn for their beauty and scent, and we don’t focus on bulbs at all. Many of the varieties grown on Scilly have been bred here so they thrive in the islands’ uniqiue climate. All the scented narcissi grown on Scilly are for the cut flower market and are not sold as bulbs so they have also been delveloped to be very asthetically pleasing, have a good perfume, long vase life and a natural flowering cycle that matches our long production season.

Paperwhite Narcissi

Paperwhite Narcissi

Our Narcissi Growing Techniques

At Churchtown Farm we are all about flower quality, so we only use 2nd, 3rd or 4th year crops. New bulbs in their first year tend to produce thin, poor quality crops which would never meet our standards. Bulbs are left in the ground for up to four years, whilst mainland bulb specialists usually run with two year crops. New bulb fields are planted in late summer in prepared soil beds and begin growing with the first of the Autumn rains. Flowering then naturally occurs between November and March, just in time for our peak ordering periods around Christmas and Mother’s Day. To ensure we are able to produce flowers throughout the Winter period, we plant varieties that have different flowering times and use polythene sheets to control development. Covering a field of narcissi with polythene sheets from August to October keeps them dry and puts a stop to any early flowering. Polythene sheets are the flower farmers best friend – they can also be used to advance the flowering season by keeping the soil warm in May and June. Blowing smoke underneath the polythene sheets can also encourage flower production as the ethylene in the smoke initiates the flower buds.

A field of narcissus on the Isles of Scilly

A Field of Narcissi on St. Martin’s

Lifting Narcissus Bulbs

By lifting, we don’t mean anything illegal either. To lift the bulbs is to remove them from the ground. After four years in the ground, we use our trusty tractor mounted bulb lifter to lift the bulbs to the surface of the soil, where they are left to dry for several days before being picked by hand. The lifting of older bulbs is essential for maintaining healthy crops as disease can set in. The bulbs are then cleaned and sorted, before being graded. Smaller, damaged or disease ridden bulbs are discarded, whilst the healthy bulbs are sterilised for three hours in a bath of hot water, ready to be planted again. Healthy bulbs can be in use almost indefinitely! Churchtown Farm has been growing narcissi for over 20 years and every year these bulbs seem to just keep on giving. A little lift, tuck and spa treatment and they are back in the fields, ready to carry on the following year. What a bunch of troopers.

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