author's daffodil garden.
arrival of bulb catalogs is a sure sign of the changing seasons.
Daffodils (Narcissus) are my number one bulb choice. They're
easy to grow. Most types are hardy to about -35°C (-31°F),
depending on snow cover. They're not only reliably perennial,
but also multiply readily. Deer and other critters generally
leave them alone, as they are poisonous. They're also a good
cut flower. What's not to love?
However, it's a bit risky to declare one's affection for Narcissus,
at least the one of myth. That's because, depending on whose
version you go by, Narcissus was a beautiful, self-absorbed
young man who rejected the attentions of his many admirers.
One of these spurned admirers committed suicide, but in dying,
asked the gods to punish Narcissus. Hearing the plea, a goddess
caused him to fall in love with his reflection in a pool,
whereupon he pined away and died. On the spot where he died
grew his namesake flower.
The disheartening legend did not taint the flower itself;
its cheerfulness has been cited in poetry and prose for more
than 2,000 years. From the various original species, daffodils
were slowly spread and hybridized. It is believed that by
the mid-1500s, about 24 different kinds had been identified,
and by the mid-1600s, there were about a hundred different
But it wasn't until the mid-1800s when interest in hybridizing
daffodils took off and several thousand cultivars were developed.
Apparently a daffodil craze (similar but less excessive than
the tulip mania of the 1630s) arose in England in the late
1800s, with choice bulbs going for the equivalent of up to
$100 U.S. each.