The Enduring Daffodil
In the Nursery business, we measure the seasons and the years by weather that is not average. We remember Spring as pleasant or disastrously wet, Summer as hot and pleasant or disastrously wet, Autumn as warm and colorful or disastrously wet, and Winter…well Winter is a whole different story. Winters are either non-descript or disastrously wet, windy, or cold…. there does not seem to be an in-between. And last Winter was so non-descript it fell into the disaster category because of the continuous dark, cold days. It seemed the low-hanging, gun-metal gray clouds were here to stay. The morning fog did not abate in the afternoon as it so often does, the continual cold and damp feel in the air and the absence of sunshine for what seemed like days on end established a rhythm that felt as though we would never escape the winter cycle. It must have been in late February when I adopted the most common daffodil of the fields as a surrogate sun. I was driving across Fir Island in deep fog when, after coming around a curve, I could see a faint orb of yellow. It turned out to be a planting of bright yellow daffodils at the base of a fence post out on the flats. I then had a new appreciation for ‘King Alfred’ daffodils, the most common narcissus of days gone by and probably the first variety to be planted in Skagit Valley. I started watching for the bright yellow flowers which added a touch of warmth to the tiresome weather. I made a game of noticing the different ways they had been planted and naturalized around the county. They were planted in the mulch of well-tended gardens, in the grass of abandoned gardens, along fence lines in pastures, and at the base of mailboxes. They were a sheet of color when planted in acres across the farm fields and they were left as solitary beacons in the farm fields that had been a riot of color a few years before and the harvesting machines had missed a few bulbs. I also saw them naturalized at the bases of old houses and barn foundations. The buildings were long gone but the stone foundations and masses of daffodils were left as a reminder of families living there many, many years ago. They were in drifts along the drainage ditches that crisscross the farmers’ fields and my favorite sight was the grouping of daffodils in the median at the intersection of Highway 20 and Best Road. This was not my favorite because it looked the most natural or was the most beautiful, but because the daffodils must have been planted years before the roads came through. Or, and this is my favorite theory, some brave person with amazing foresight had the courage to go out there with all those cars and trucks and semis and trains speeding by to plant scores of these hardy bulbs that flower during late winter, multiply no matter what their care has been, and look lovely no matter if the day is gray. So, I would like to thank the daring person who planted those bulbs along the roadway and recommend we plan on planting more ‘sunshine’ in public places around the county. I wonder if we need a permit. Could the planting of bulbs be illicit? As John would say, ‘just do it’. And, I guess I would agree for there is no better way to plant the promise of spring.