Grandpa’s daffs


If you look up gregarious in the dictionary, you’ll find a photo of my grandfather. He was fun, funny and loved Grandma – best of all he lived next door. He was the life of the party and always had a new joke he wanted to share. I’m not sure he had a motto, but my guess is it would have been “live life to its fullest.”

He was never one to do things halfway. I remember once Grams asked him to go buy a beachball for the pool party they were planning. He returned with the blue stationwagon full-to-overflowing with beachballs. At the time I was sure it was hundreds with hindsight it was probably closer to a couple dozen.

Gramps approached gardening in much the same way. Late in his life, when he had to use a golf cart to get around to his garden tasks, I asked him why he always bought such large plants. It seemed like he was always pulling out plants and shrubs because they had gotten too big for the space. He answered that at his age (at that time well into his 90s) he wasn’t going to wait for plantings to mature; he wanted to enjoy them now.

He left several garden legacies behind and one of my favorites is the daffodils. I don’t know how many daffodils he planted and how many naturalized, but at one time they overwhelmed the woods behind my parent’s and grandparent’s homes. The oak grove was filled with huge bright yellow daffodils, blue scilla, miniature bi-colored narcissus plus all the woodland stuff like mayapples (Podophyllum peltatum) and fiddlehead ferns. It was an amazing display of color that truly meant winter was over.

As I enjoy the daffodils in my yard and reminisce about Grandpa I began to wonder about its origins. The history and mythology is interesting.

Narcissus

The Latin name for the common daffodil is narcissus was named after the mythological Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. Narcissus was so self-absorbed with his own good looks that he was completely indifferent to anyone else. By rejecting connections he angered the gods and was cursed to one day fall in love and not have his love returned. This curse was fulfilled when Narcissus unexpectedly saw an image in a clear, still pool. Of course, it was his own reflection, but at first he did not recognize who it was. This was the first time that he fell in love with someone, but it was doomed to be an unfulfilled love as the object of his love was eternally separated from him by a membrane of water. In his grief, Narcissus laid down beside the pool and disappeared into the underworld.  When his companions looked for Narcissus, they found a flower with a yellow center and white petals — a daffodil — where his body last laid. (for the whole story)

The miniature daffodil, Narcissus tazetta, is believed to be the oldest daffodil in cultivation having first been cultivated by the ancient Greeks. Because the flowers of many species of narcissi droop mournfully, it was thought to be an omen of death. Simultaneously because they are either the white of purity or yellow like sunlight, they may symbolize wisdom, hope and joy.

The daffodil was adopted in the 20th Century as the national flower of Wales, because (in legend) it begins to bloom on Saint David’s Day on March 1. There is some speculation that a paperwhite, a white daffodil, may have symbolized purity among the Druids, and so was coopted as a symbol of Saint David. To this day, Welsh school children wear daffodils to celebrate the first day of March.

I purchase value bag or bulk bags of daffodils every few years as my goal is to replicate Grandpa’s overblown, abundance. Between being full sun and a particularly aggressive herd of squirrels I usually have to replenish now-and-again. One of my “best buy” sites is Holland Bulb Farms.

About Kary Beck

Mother and wife, gardener, wine enthusiast, avid online bargain hunter, and owner of two black-and-tan cocker spaniels.
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