Greek mythology has introduced us to many people of various names; among them was the self-obsessed man of Narcissus. Theory has it he was so obsessed with viewing his reflection in a pool of water that he couldn’t pull himself away and he died of thirst and starvation. Others have stated he may have dropped into the reflection and drowned. In either case, it was indicated that the blooming Narcissus flower emerged at the location of the tragedy. Today we are more familiar with the name of Daffodil when it comes to the spring flower we enjoy in our gardens.
Now that the month of May is well underway, I am more confident than ever that spring is here to stay and the enjoyments of the fresh scents in the air are becoming ever-apparent. Whether it is the aromas of the blooming spring flowers or the blossoms of the fruit and ornamental trees, they fill my senses with pure joy and contentment. The beautiful yellow hues of the daffodils only add to that enjoyment.
Most years, I am disappointed in the few flowers that appear, but this year has been a blessing in disguise as if to say, “A little patience will reward you in due time.” My first clumps have numerous blooms already and I have many new clumps just coming up with additional buds to elongate the season.
There are about 13 divisions or styles of daffodils in the market and over 25,000 selections. Too many to go over every variety available, but there is a style to fit anyone’s need in the garden.
Daffodils are one of the most recognizable of the spring flowers next to the tulips. Typically it is the fluorescent yellow coloring that pulls our eyes directly to them. Each year, catalogs and nurseries come out with more and more varieties to tempt our desires for additional styles and colors. Daffodils are now available in various shades of yellow, white, pink, green, orange, and two-toned.
They are planted as bulbs and should be sown during the fall months for early spring enjoyment. All parts of the bulb and plant are poisonous and are rarely fed on by animals, even though some may try to dig them up. Few insects will affect them also, so the plant is quite resilient. They typically should be planted in a hole twice the depth and wide of the bulbs themselves, being placed in a sunny, well-drained location. Flat, lance-shaped leaves will appear in early April, followed by a central bud that will eventually bloom with a flower of six petals and sepals surrounding a central trumpet protrusion.
These flowers can rage in size from as small as 1 inch across to as large as 4 inches depending on the variety. The most common variety most of us are familiar with is the large flowering yellow bloom of the King Alfred selection. Avalon is a stunning variety that has a butter-cream yellow exterior fading to a white trumpet center. Fortisimo is a variety that has yellow petals with a deep orange central trumpet. Ice King is a wonderful selection that is a double blooming flower with white petals surrounding a ruffled double center trumpet of pale yellow, which has a fantastic scent. Ice Follies is similar except in the singular form. Stainless and Misty Glen are pure white selections, while the Delnashaugh displays a beautiful double-blooming pink and white flower.
In the last few decades, the yellow daffodil has become a symbol to support the fight against cancer. Beginning in Australia and moving around various parts of the world, it has become a blooming symbol of hope for the future.
If using the daffodil blooms in vase arrangements with other flowers, be aware that the daffodil produces a toxic fluid in the stem that can cause other flowers to die in a vase of water. If mixing a variety of flowers in a vase, make sure to set the daffodils in a vase all their own for at least 12 hours before mixing with other species of cut flowers to dilute this toxic fluid from affecting other flowers. As irritable as this fluid can be to other flowers and the skin of some people, it also has valuable properties. This fluid has recently been used in drugs to aid in slowing the progress of Alzheimer’s disease in patients. The fluid is known as galantamine and is being produced in Wales England, which ironically happens to be the country where the daffodil is their national flower.
Of all the beauty that exists with this extraordinary spring flower, I think it is their fragile elegance that entices me the most. Their subtle colors and occasional scents seem to draw me into the garden for hours making me tend to the many other new plants developing along the way. A friend mentioned to me many times how therapeutic a garden, plants and flowers can be to a person during all the good and bad times of their life. As much as I assume this theory, I am not always aware of it until I actually slow down from life’s hectic pace and drift off into the simple beauties that exist in our very own gardens.
If you have a chance today, go out and find a daffodil or some other spring flower and let them take you away into a simpler state of consciousness. You will be so glad you took a “time out” as an adult to get your bearings on the important things in life once again. Those things are the free and natural items that seem to have a connection to our inner beings. You might find yourself entranced with the daffodil in the same way Narcissus was entranced by his own image.