“And then my heart with pleasure fills and dances with the daffodils.”
— William Wordsworth
Driving past an old abandoned barn, my eye caught a blur of color amongst the dead brown weeds. As flakes of snow swirled in the crisp February air, a spray of daffodil blooms stood tall and proud as they raised their butter yellow faces to the morning sun.
Unable to resist, I pulled over and walked into the field. I brought one of the flowers to my nose and inhaled deeply. I smiled. “Hi, Mom,” I said.
My mom loved daffodils. They were her favorite flower. She called them Daffy Doodles. She said no other bloom can boast that same shade of yellow or one-of-a-kind aroma. For me, they signal the promise of spring and hold the key to my childhood. The mere sight of them never fails to bring back a flood of memories revolving around my mom.
I was a Navy brat growing up. We moved a lot. But Mom’s daffodils always went with her. After the moving vans pulled out of the driveway, the last thing my mom did before we piled in the car and headed out to our new home was to dig up all her beloved Daffy Doodle bulbs. Then she put them to bed in a large burlap sack filled with loose soil, where they slept soundly in the trunk of our car until she transplanted them.
She told me one of the reasons 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.
One of Mom’s favorite pastimes was finding daffodils growing in the wild. Every March she looked for them in her travels and marked where new ones had sprouted up. Then she returned in the fall to dig them up and add them to her burgeoning collection.
One crisp October day, I was helping Mom dig up bulbs from a field next to an abandoned farmhouse. I held an old metal bucket and stood over her as she used a spade and her bare hands to coax the bulbs from the rich, dark earth. It seemed like a lot of dirty work and patience. “Why don’t you just pick the flowers and dig up the roots when you first find them?” I asked.
She dropped the last bulb into the bucket and said, "You have to let the flower die so that all the food goes back into the bulb. If you don't, they won't come back."
At the time, I didn't understand what she meant, but I've never forgotten her words. To this day, I never cut back plants or dig up tubers and bulbs until after the flowers and leaves have died. It was one of the many things I learned from Mom while helping her in the garden, and not just about plants. My mother wasn't an educated woman. In fact, she never graduated high school. But she was a wealth of wisdom when it came to family and faith. And Daffy Doodles.
These days, it's hard to find daffodil bulbs in stores. I asked a woman at a local nursery why. She said, "Daffodils are so easy to grow, you don’t need to buy them. If you plant a few bulbs, they’ll fill up a flower bed by the next season."
Like Mom said, they're stubborn that way.
What is your favorite flower? Why? Drop me a line in the comment section below!
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