In Focus: Daffodil
Daffodils are one of the loves of my life. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t fascinated and enthralled with them. Growing up in the middle of the woods in the middle of nowhere, we had daffodils growing along our 1/2 mile driveway – in nearly full deciduous shade, producing about one flower per clump, and fighting for their survival, but growing. I used to visit them, and pretend they were my very own meadow.
Later, my parents took me to a party at a house with fields and fields of daffodils. They were everywhere, nodding yellow faces, clump after clump of tranquil narcissus. If I recall correctly (which most likely I don’t, but allow me to embellish regardless), I spent the entire event in the field, lying with the flowers. I was probably around seven, and I doubt I was even visible above the flower stalks. I have an image of myself lying surrounded by my own personal sunshine, staring at the sky and wondering why I ever had to leave.
That field is one of my strongest memories, accurate or not, and it framed one of my earliest and longest-running fantasies: to build a cottage in a large clearing in the middle of the woods, and fill the field with daffodils. In my fantasy, my clearing was towered over by huge oaks and poplars, and no people could find me – only animals and plants. I wanted to be alone to appreciate my daffodils in solitude. (Later, the fantasy evolved to include “horticulture”, which I thought meant cutting a seed from a white dogwood and a seed from a pink dogwood and gluing them together. I’m still not sure how far I am from the truth.) So, as you can see, my relationship with daffodils is one of the oldest I have. I have always know they were necessary to my existence, and I’m forever sidetracked as I pass by particularly enticing patches.
When we bought our house, one of my first discoveries was daffodils. There was one huge circle of them in the back yard, and another huge gaggle of them along the driveway, fighting for space among the hydrangeas. They were beautiful, but they were overcrowded and underappreciated – they had shoved themselves up to nearly the surface (large daffodil bulbs should be 6-8 inches deep), and were packed so tight they fell over whenever the wind blew. Something must be done.
Unfortunately, shortly after this I discovered the downside of having daffodils in a lawn: when it comes time to mow, you can’t mow them. You have to wait patiently while they turn ugly and floppy and the flowers die back and the leaves dwindle, and you can’t touch them until they turn brown on their own. If you can’t wait, you won’t get daffodils the next year. Really. They stay green for so long for a reason – they need that sunlight!
So I considered, and I thought, and I schemed, and I hatched my plan: I picked a narrow stretch of lawn where Calin said it was okay if he couldn’t mow for a few extra months (he is now regretting that promise). I dug up all the daffodils in the yard (or at least I thought I did), and I dug up some of the ones from the hydrangea bed to make them happier, and I collected some others from my soon-to-be mother-in-law. I made Calin drill me 75 holes on my chosen hillside lawn, and I planted myself a tiny field of daffodils. Along the way, I also picked out a bunch of other daffodils and planted them in corners of garden beds all over the yard.
Most of the bulbs I planted in my tiny field were baby bulbs, because I had divided them from such a crowded patch, so this Spring’s flower yield was light. But it was enough to show me what it could be next year, and to start the little bubbles of joy at the thought of finally accomplishing my meadow of daffodils. And the sparseness of my hillside was more than made up for by the little clumps of new daffodils I had planted, that emerged and peeked and blossomed into glowing little colonies of sunshine.
I have never loved daffodils more than I do this Spring, and I’m so excited to see what surprises my little yellow friends have in store for me in the years to come.