February 15 2022
Daffodowndilly By AA Milne
She wore her yellow sun bonnet
She wore her greenest gown;
She turned to the south wind
And curtsied up and down.
She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor,
“Winter is dead.”
Only the creator of Winnie the Pooh could come up with the delightfully silly word ‘daffodowndilly.’ I can’t look at a daffodil without thinking of it. As a harbinger of spring, daffodils are a symbol of rebirth and new beginnings and what a welcome sight they are. Narcissus, from the Greek ‘narke’ meaning numbness (same root word as narcotic) is the scientific name for daffodils. They are toxic to animals including us. Everyone knows the myth of Narcissus, a Greek hunter so in love with himself that he stared at his reflection in the water until he fell in and drowned. Thus narcissus is about egotism also, just one more instance of centuries of convoluted plant stories.
The Poet’s Narcissus was named by Linnaeus, the Swedish naturalist and creator of the binomial plant and animal classification system, presumably because he believed it was the one that inspired the myth of Narcissus. Also, Poet’s narcissus was the flower the Greek goddess Persephone was gathering when Hades abducted her into the underworld. From this came the custom of decorating graves with this flower. So many stories there are, handed down by poets for up to 2700 years, since being mentioned in the writings of the ancient Greeks.
Poet’s Narcissus, also called Pheasant’s Eye, is a delightful small spring flower, one per stalk rising from bulbs planted in the fall. Their backward curving white petals with red-rimmed yellow cups lend themselves to the tiny arrangements I like to bring into the house, excited as I am by spring. I have an assortment of small antique bottles that work wonderfully for this. This particular arrangement features two Poet’s Narcissus, dainty blue Brunnera flowers, and the petite Lily of the Valley. I would suppose that there is not much money in such small bouquets, I’ve never seen a single one for sale anywhere (not that I buy many cut flowers, having so many in my gardens) so we must grow our own.Violas lend themselves to this purpose, as do sprigs of lavender, tiny zinnias and marigolds, evening scented stock, feverfew, alyssum, mignonette, and no doubt many other tiny gems.
Here’s to all the flowers of spring and new beginnings, in the gardens and in our hearts, and turning to the sun.
Poet’s Narcissus var. recurvus, Narcissus poeticus, zone 3-8, 12-16” tall