Gardening with Galligan: Daffodils, daffodils everywhere…

CAROL GALLIGAN PHOTO | A lovely planting, just as Wordsworth would have wanted it.

It’s that time of year when the Island turns yellow. Forsythia and daffodils are everywhere. We should offer thanks to those Islanders who do roadside plantings for all of us to enjoy. There’s a great example on the west side of North Cartwright Road, north of the Burns Road intersection. I’m sure there are others, but that’s the one I pass on my way to friends on Little Ram. Thank you, whoever you are.

Do remember Wordsworth and his lovely poem, “Daffodils”:
“…When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.”

Then think about “the lilies of the field” and what they actually were or might have been. Everyone agrees it’s unlikely they were actually lilies, because to grow lilies someone has to not only “sow” but do a lot of other work as well. Lilies are not carefree. One does not find them in “fields.” A more likely possibility, of course, is daffodils, and if you think about it, their structure could be considered somewhat similar to that of the lily.

On the subject of daffodils however, I feel compelled to return to the saga begun last summer. For those of you who didn’t read my column about my daughter’s daffodils, or if you did and don’t remember it, or if you did and do remember it, accept my apologies for being bored through the next paragraphs.

My daughter returned from work one spring evening to discover to her horror that her new yard crew had, in an effort towards sightliness, cut down the foliage from all 500 of her daffodils. She believed, as I did, because every single garden book will tell you so, that “the foliage must ripen” in order for the bulbs to bloom again. There are even chapters advising that plantings, such as ferns and hosta, if interplanted with daffodils, will hide the ugly, browning daffodil leaves. Consequently, she was certain that her daffodils were toast.

When she confronted the yard crew leader, he indicated, politely, that she was out of her mind, citing his experience of many years of cutting daffodil foliage down to the ground with no ill effects. He asked her what gave her such an insane idea and she was reluctant to say, “My mother told me so.” But being a self-confident type, she did and fortunately he quailed at the possibility of insulting anyone’s mother. He did offer to replace all 500 daffodils should they not return.ऀ

She, of course, informed me of this event immediately, realizing, as I did, that if it were true, it would represent a major breakthrough. It would also represent a really annoying possibility. Could all those books be wrong? How could that be? But we did agree that, as had been true in times past, we had, not of our choosing, a neatly controlled scientific experiment. I would continue carefully to remove each annoying browning leaf; hers, of course, were already gone. The following spring would tell the tale.ऀ

Well, the following spring is here. Since she lives in Northern Westchester, there is a roughly 10 days to two weeks differential in bloom times, so I don’t have an update yet. But I will be visiting there this coming weekend and will certainly be paying attention, as she will be as well, to her “host of daffodils.” We’ll see if our “hearts with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils.”

I don’t know what to hope for. Supposing all the books are wrong, then what? I’ll keep you posted.