Daffodils – a cheerful presence since January when their spiky leaves emerged in the winter garden, followed by buds and scattered early blossoms in February and a rush of brave blooms all March and April – continue to delight now, nearly May, as I carry weekly bouquets to the wee scholars’ librarian.
For the first couple of years I picked only blossoms blown over by wind, but this year I’ve filled glass vases from Goodwill with generous handfuls of the long-stemmed beauties to give away. Mellow yellow or acid yellow, it’s fun to watch people smile as they walk by them in the library. The young writer called daffodils “sunshine in my house.”
Daffodils danced and bobbed as they absorbed all sorts of nasty weather and never lost heart – perhaps that’s why their nature seems jolly and plucky to me. They grow happily here – melding so harmoniously with forest trees and newly leafed shrubs – in the front garden, the woods garden, and the bride’s garden. Daffodils ask for so little and give so much.
I have a garden writer friend who is a daffodil expert, she understands the descriptive divisions or classifications. I love to hear her pronounce the poetry of intriguing names of daffodils she grows. One evening at her house, daffodils in little vases with names like ‘Thalia,’ ‘Quail,’ and ‘Golden Echo’ lit up the center of her dining table. After she inspires me, I think that if I study them I will know my favorites and do a more selective job of ordering for the fall.
But in truth I love them all (even the ubiquitous grocery store daffodils with canary yellow blossoms which die with a butterscotch fragrance), and I enjoy the surprises that come with ordering by the hundred-fold.
Bulbs look alike before planting, but unexpected combinings result from the relationship of petal to trumpet in colors from vanilla white to egg-yolk yellow. Petal shape can be large or small, pointed or rounded. Cups can be tiny and flat, a two-inch trumpet or tiny trumpet trimmed in orange. Doubles happen – miniature ones with orange cups – even triples with dangling blossoms. A creamy-petalled daffodil has a coral-pink center. A standard yellow daffodil dresses fancy with interior petals shaped and ruffled like an orchid.
Part of my delight in the hundred mix comes from the staggered bloom time allowing such a long display. Perhaps the little fragrant ones I think of as jonquils are favorites. Their heady scent heralds the world’s quickening – through all our many months of spring.