I saw the first daffodils of the season today. I was driving past an old abandoned barn when my eye caught a blur of color amongst some tall weeds. As flakes of snow swirled around in the crisp February air, those headstrong blooms stood tall and proud as they raised their butter yellow faces to the morning sun.
Unable to resist, I pulled over and walked out to the field and plucked a few. I brought the flowers to my nose and inhaled deeply. "Hi, Mom," I said, and smiled.
I love daffodils. In fact, they're my favorite flower. My mother loved them as well. She called them "Daffy Doodles." She said no other bloom can boast that same shade of yellow or one-of-a-kind aroma, which for me has always been the promise of spring. The mere sight of them never fails to bring back a flood of memories, all of them revolving around my mom.
I was a navy brat growing up, so we moved a lot. But my mom's daffodils always went with her. After the moving vans pulled out of the driveway, my mother would dig up all her beloved Daffy Doodle bulbs and put them to bed in a burlap sack filled with loose soil, where they slept soundly until she transplanted them at our new home.
She told me one of the reasons why she loved daffodils is because they're so stubborn. No matter where we were living, those bulbs came back year after year. In Maine and Connecticut, they pushed their determined heads through blankets of snow and shivered in the cold for a few short-lived weeks. In the warmer locales of Virginia and the Carolinas, they stretched their toes deep into the Southern earth and stayed a while, soaking up the sun and balmy breezes.
She especially loved to find daffodils growing in the wild. Every March she would look for them in her travels and mark where new ones had sprouted up. Then she would come back at a later time to dig them up and add them to her burgeoning collection.
I asked her why she didn't just pick the flowers and dig up the bulbs as soon as she found them.
"You have to let the flower die so that all the food goes back into the bulb under the ground. If you don't, they won't come back."
I didn't understand what she meant at the time, but I've never forgotten it. To this day, I never cut back plants or dig up tubers and bulbs until the flowers and leaves have died. Just one of the many things I learned from her while helping in the garden, and not just about plants. My mother wasn't what you would call an educated woman. In fact, she never graduated high school. But she was a wealth of wisdom when it came to her family and her faith. And of course, Daffy Doodles.
It's hard to find daffodil bulbs nowadays at a greenhouse or nursery. I asked a woman at a local nursery why. She said, "Daffodils are so easy to grow, you rarely need to buy them. You can plant a few bulbs and fill up a flower bed in just a couple of seasons."
Like Mom said, they're stubborn that way.
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