The Conceited Daffodil
For oft when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils
William Wordsworth’s Poem, Daffodils, is but one of many laurels to what may be one of the most recognizable flowers in the world. It is universally celebrated for its brilliant yellow declaration of spring.
The Daffodils here on the Currant farm will be opening in the next few days. Like everything else this year, they’re a couple weeks behind their usual schedule. The farm is studded with pockets of these yellow miracles. A few from farmers of yore have become thousands along old stone walls, some have naturalized themselves in the woods and here and there, little ballets of lemon gilded blooms gather joyously in dappled sunlight without plan or reason.
There are dozens of varieties… and hundreds of hybrids of … paper whites we bring into bloom indoors in the winter, Jonquils, which boast multiple blooms on the same stem, the wild daffodil so loved by Shakespeare and the pink, orange and multicolored hybrids on the market today.
They all belong to the botanical family Narcissus stealing the name from another vain beauty. The Greek legend imparts the story of a handsome young man, Narcissus, who one day while walking along a quiet stream, happened upon a pool just above a fallen log and looking down, he noticed his reflection in the still water. He was so taken with the face looking back at him he instantly fell in love with his own beauty. So great was this adoration of himself, he forsook all other people and things in the world so that he might spend all of his time luxuriating by the aqueous mirror admiring his own image. He was unable to look away and eventually succumbed to starvation. The Gods transformed him into a daffodil flower bent over looking down so he could remain at the side of the pool forever.
Our yellow trumpets of spring are also loath to share their beauty. They contain a chemical in their sticky sap, calcium oxalate, which is poisonous to tulips and other cut flowers. So, when arranging spring bouquets in a vase, remember to keep the vain Narcissi separate.
Daffodils propagate in two ways, asexually by bulb division, which is why they naturalize and spread so easily in woods and fields. The offspring resulting from this type of propagation are exact replicas of the parent flower. They also reproduce sexually from the seeds located in the ovule, which is the bulbous part of the stem just below the flower. If you cut it open after the blossom is spent and collect the seeds from this ovary, store them in a cool dry place for the summer and plant them in the fall, they will produce hybrids, slightly different from the parent.
After blooming be sure to leave the foliage until it begins to turn yellow which may not be until late May or June. These green leaves manufacture chlorophyll during that time which is the necessary food for next year’s blooms.
This ubiquitous prophet of the farm’s beauty and bounty is the ultimate declaration that winter has been defeated by the fair maiden of spring adorned in a negligée woven from golden threads of infinite hope and promise.
Cheers from the farm,