By Lynne Freda
Jeffersonville Journal 2014-2015
They’re the certain signs of spring that we look for every year… the bright yellow flowers of the daffodils. Some call them narcissus, jonquils, or paperwhites… the names may be different, but when those words are said, anyone can conjure up the image of a daffodil: sunny, yellow and a harbinger of spring.
You could argue that snow drops are the bravest of the fall bulbs: they poke out while the earth is still carpeted in its freezing white cape. But the showiest bulbs certainly have to be the daffies: shortly after the first snow starts melting, the distinctive green color of the daffodil shoots start to poke up through the leftover fall leaves. You may be tempted to uncover the tender leaves from the mulch, but don’t! They’ll benefit from the protection against the cold and wind, until the frost works its way out and the sun warms the ground.
Soon, the snow melts, and as spring showers turn to sunshine, the green stems swell at the tips of the shoots. One day you’ll see a bit of yellow poking out at the ends of a daffy stem… and the next day, it seems, it will be in full, fragrant bloom! Its colors may vary: yellow, white, orange, but the daffodil’s distinctive trumpet shape in the middle is always the same.
As the area emerges from winter and the spring flowers rise from the ground, you may be tempted to go buy some for your own garden. Ah, but there’s the rub: daffodils and other spring flowers arise from bulbs, and they are planted in the fall. Plant them two to four weeks before the ground freezes. They’re one of the easiest flowers to grow: just poke a hole in the ground and plant. Make sure the pointy tip goes up, and make the depth of the hole about three times the height of the bulb. Daffies are woodland natives, so they can take some shade, but they do best in full sun, on a slope. Plant them in bunches, in designs, or by the hundreds.
Experts say there are more than 150 different types of daffodils. Once they bloom, you may cut them and present them as a beautiful showy bouquet. But be careful: don’t mix them in a vase with other flowers, because their stems secrete a fluid which promotes the wilting of other flowers. And legend has it that daffodils should be presented in a bunch, as a single bloom given can bring bad luck.
Unlike other flowers, daffies are nearly squirrel, rabbit and deer resistant. Rodents and deer don’t like the taste of the narcissus bulbs, and the bulbs contain poisonous crystals which animals avoid. Enjoy the daffodils’ 6 weeks or so of bloom. After you enjoy the blossoms, you can remove the dead flowers. But allow those green leaves to grow until they turn yellow. That allows the chlorophyll to store up energy in the bulbs for next year.
After a few years, you may want to dig up a big clump and separate the daffies. Spread the love around. I plant them randomly. Is there a more pleasant surprise as the grey winter washes away than seeing a splash of yellow in the woods, or near a mailbox, or in a field? Next time you see that, remember that someone, one crisp fall day, took the time to plant those bland brown bulbs, which turn into bright yellow trumpets heralding that spring has sprung and summer is sure to follow.
Lynne Freda grew up around the real estate business, and spent her formative years in the Upper Delaware Catskills, but headed south to Florida for college. After 26 years in the Sunshine State, Lynne came back to Sullivan County to work at the Real Estate Agency started by her Dad and continued by her two brothers, Matthew J. Freda Real Estate. Lynne is a licensed real estate salesperson in both NY and PA. She spends as much time as she can enjoying life outdoors along the Upper Delaware River Valley: kayaking and canoeing, gardening and planting too many daffodils, walking, and taking in concerts at Bethel Woods. In a past life, Lynne worked in TV news in the Tampa,