Friday, February 16, 2018

Thinking of Spring and Daffodils

 (Note: all photos are from years past--no flowers yet this year!)

I noticed in the gardens yesterday that the green tips of daffodils were beginning to show through the mulch. Last year by this time, they were up so far they were almost ready to bloom, far too early. This year we seem to be back on a reasonable schedule for Spring, and I am already looking forward to flowers and green. How about you?

Daffodils are one of my favorite flowers, right there with violets and roses. I bet I am not alone-these brave early bloomers bring brightness to the landscape after the soft grays and whites (and recently brown, as in mud) of winter. They have, in many cultures, been considered lucky, and will reward you with good fortune if you avoid stepping on them and crushing them. I wonder if my dogs would listen if I told them that.

Some people believe that daffodils growing in the wild indicate the past location of a former church or other religious site. I can see where this comes from, since daffodils were frequently planted on graves, and they naturalize easily. A Christian legend says that daffodils appeared in the Garden of Gethsemane after the Last Supper; my husband calls them Easter Flowers, and perhaps that name arises from this legend--or is it just because the daffodils are usually in bloom on Easter? The Egyptians used daffodils in funeral wreaths and Roman soldiers carried them in case of their death--presumably to grow on their graves, I would guess.

How often do you see wild daffodils and notice foundations stones or a crumbling house or barn? For me they certainly seem to indicate the site of some form of human habitation, living or dead. The bulbs might also wash out in floods and scatter along creeks and rivers, and there is no prettier sight in my book than yellow flowers bobbing along the banks and mingling with tree roots and wildflowers.

The daffodil is poisonous, however--all of its parts, but most particularly the bulbs. I remember a lady calling me a few years ago to ask if she could make jelly from them; some quick research delivered a very decided "No" in answer to her question. I don't think I would even use them as decoration on food, either, even though they would be so pretty on a cake or a salad. No sense taking chances. In Greek mythology, the Furies wore them in their hair and used them against their enemies--the name daffodil derives from a Greek word meaning narcotic, so you can imagine how the Furies might have employed them as a weapon. One of the effects of daffodil poisoning is convulsions and stupor, not something any enemy would enjoy.

Most people know the story of Narcissus, the Greek lad whose name was given to the two-flowered member of the daffodil family. He admired his reflection in a pool of water so long that he fell in love with himself and pined away from unrequited love. The gods took pity on him and turned him into a flower, the narcissus.

In Wales, the daffodil has become a national symbol, right up there with the red dragon although not nearly as ancient in that role. Apparently its importance as a symbol began when David Lloyd George, a Welshman, served as Britain's Prime Minister. He wore one as a bouttoniere and was a strong supporter of the flower--which is grown today in Wales to produce galantamine, a drug used to treat Alzheimer's Disease.

A few superstitions associated with daffodils:

*Never bring in just one bloom, bring a bunch. Otherwise you will see penury and hard luck throughout the year.

*Never pick daffodils before the first chicks hatch or you will have no hatchlings. And if you pick just one, your hens will hatch only one chick.

*A daffodils whose nodding head is turned toward you is not good. As in this old quote from the Encyclopedia of Superstitions, Folklore, and the Occult Sciences by Cora Linn Daniels and C.M. Stevans:

"When a daffodil I see,
Hanging down her hear toward me,
Guess I may what I must be!
First I shall decline my head,
Secondly I shall be dead,
Lastly, safely buried."

Let's not leave each other on that somber note!

The Daffodil Fairy

I’m everyone’s darling: the blackbird and starling
Are shouting about me from blossoming boughs;
For I, the Lent Lily, the Daffy-down-dilly,
Have heard through the country the call to arouse.
The orchards are ringing with voices a-singing
The praise of my petticoat, praise of my gown;
The children are playing, and hark! they are saying
That Daffy-down-dilly is come up to town!

By Cicely Mary Barker from her book, Complete Book of the Flower Fairies published in 1923.

You might also like: Daffodil: The Remarkable Story or the World's Most Popular Spring Flower by Noel Kingsbury and Jo Whitworth.
Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


Nance said...

Daffodils! One of our first to bloom in Iowa too. But readi g this hopeful post, I'm going right out to cut some quince and forsthia to force!

Granny Sue said...

I need to go out and cut some more, Nance. Mine have pretty much finished blooming. They were such a delight!

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

They are just coming into bloom here. I did photograph a few in the Botanic Gardens recently, but didn't put them on the blog as there'll be more than enough later in the year!
The leek always used to be the symbol of Wales.

Granny Sue said...

Yes, the leek is still on of the symbols, along with the dragon. The daffodil is a newcomer. I am hoping our daffodils hold off a bit, at least to the end of the month or early March, so they don't suffer so much from freezes. It's sad when the stems freeze and they all lay on the ground.

Steve Arnold said...

I love daffodils - on of my favorites. Not quite a year ago my parents had to enter a care center, it meant so much to Mom that not long after that I was able to bring her daffodils from her own garden. I look forward to being able to do that again soon.

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