Easter is this week-end so here’s a little diddy to get us in the mood.
There now. Wasn’t that nice? Now, let’s get right on to the story.
When I was a small child growing up in southern Indiana there was no such thing as a daffodil. There just wasn’t. Jonquils were not to be found. Narcissus (Narcissi?) were as non-existent as interstate highways. You only knew the gravel road and you only knew “Easter Flowers.” And they were yellow.
They were all yellow (including the one double one) with the exception of a mysterious double white. That double white had the very same shape as the double yellow and they didn’t always open completely. It was a special year when you got most of them to bloom out completely. To this day I have no idea what those special conditions are.
We had lots of the traditional yellow trumpet shaped ones in our yard. Every spring they would push their sturdy strap shaped leaves through the clayey soil and the fresh green grass (okay, some grass with mostly white clover). Easter flowers were tough. They had to be to survive nine children, an assortment of dogs and pups, plus the occasional sow or cow out for a spring stroll. They can also fend off deer and rodents. They grew and bloomed in the shade of the old walnut and sugar maple trees, in the sunny open areas of the yard, and right along the edge of the gravel road. They lived in the dry areas and the wet areas. They were tough and reliable.
We always picked some for bouquets, sometimes dying the water green or blue and watching as each day the color showed up in the flowers more and more. It would follow the veins right to the tip of the trumpet creating vivid multicolored flowers. I haven’t tried that in years. Maybe it is time.
I am not certain if the doubles were always in the yard because I remember when we started collecting them from the old homestead on my uncle’s farm just at the top of the hill behind our farm. We would dig them in bloom. They always survived even if it took an extra year to bloom again. I think his plowing the field near the homestead kept the bulbs healthy by dividing them ever so often. On a late collecting trip we discovered the small flowered Pheasant’s Eye daffodil. The tiny yellow cup with a red rim was surrounded by perfect little white flat petals. And they were fragrant. We added these to our collection.
The first daffodil I ever bought was Mrs. R. O. Backhouse, white with a “pink” cup. You had to squint real hard to call it pink. It was the softest salmon. I paid 75 cents for three bulbs from Henry Field Seed Company. I remember taping the quarters to an index card or something. It was like a hundred bucks to me. That clump multiplied over time with no real care at all. Years later I found out it was an heirloom variety. Forty or so years later they are still there. Here’s an image I found at Old House Gardens on the right.
Today there are many pink daffodils along with reds, oranges, whites. On average when we talk about pink, red, or orange we are talking about the corona (the cup or trumpet in the middle) not the perianth (the petals – really a combination of petals and sepals- surrounding the cup). Along with the colors are all the forms – double, split cup, tazetta, small cup, large cup, twelve in all. You can have daffodils blooming from February through May. They can be only a few inches tall or a foot and a half tall. Here’s a sampling taken this week from our gardens at the IMA .
You can also come to the gardens here and see thousands upon thousands of them in bloom this very week-end.
Don’t forget your bonnet for the Easter Parade. And since you know I’m all about the sweet stuff let me just say I hope the Easter Bunny brings you lots of candy, sweet sugar coated candy.