DAFFODIL LUST :P
“I have feelings for this flower that some people might consider inappropriate.”
Sometimes people don’t act their assumed social identity, age, class, sex, race, religion etc… While there obviously is a correlation between genetics and behavioral predisposition, especially by sex, such expectations are largely social constructs. My partner’s and my roles are often somewhat reversed. She brings in the money, does the taxes and is more likely to be seen changing the oil in the car. Some of this is I think due to her generation of women often valuing taking control of their own lives, which I generally see as a valuable trend and have often encouraged in my female friends (of which I tend to have quite a few). Its like, they want to have jobs and be valued for skills and compete in that way socially. I think thats awesome. Back on track though, she is also less likely to have aesthetic fixations and relevant to this train of thought to bring in cut flowers unless there is some very especial reason and it is in the service of others, as in cutting them for someone’s birthday for instance. I plant a few flowers every year, but there are plenty that reseed themselves in the garden, so there are often flowers to cut. I on the other hand will not infrequently bring in cut flowers… and throw them out later when (and occasionally before) they start rotting all over the table. Over the years I’ve gradually added to the quantity and species of flowers that grow in my gardens. I tended at first to shun them in favor of growing yet more food, but I’ve gradually learned to make room for them and appreciate their aesthetic qualities as well as the fact that they can attract beneficial insects and the pleasure that they bring to visitors. Now I’ll plant a few on purpose each year, while the orange cosmos, hollyhocks, poppies, calendula, flowering tobacco, pansies and sunflowers reseed themselves to the point of being weedy… if still welcome. Then there are daffodils.
I’ve always been fond of the small flowering narcissus, of what is known as the Tazetta category. The Tazettas are the smallest class of daffodils, many derived from species native to mediterranean climates. They tend to be strongly scented with many small flowers to each stem. These are the varieties that I’m mostly seeking for my bulb under-stories for trees experiment. When in 6th grade I moved to a Western Oregon property with old fruit trees and overgrown gardens which were home to large yellow daffodils. Even as far back as then I was never fond of the large yellow daffodils standing tall and oversized and… um… very yellow… on the end of single tall stems. I think that somehow the fact that they had been manipulated into this very obviously unnatural form offended my sensibilities somehow. (although, judging by their ubiquitousness, that form is popular with others.)
Since moving here to Turkeysong, I’ve collected as many daffodils of any sort as I have been able to get my hands on for aesthetic purposes and for my tree under-story experiments. Some of them were moved from the last place I lived. Others have been acquired by begging a few bulbs off of friends. In the winter and spring I travel with small digging implements in case I see some growing in an abandoned lot or ditch somewhere. The clumps are invariably overcrowded. Unless I think I’m going to get busted by some irate human, I’ll try to take a moment to plant a few bulbs to start new clumps. Over the last few years, I’ve become more interested in daffodils and the many forms besides BIG and YELLOW, which due to their prevalence I also have some of and maybe don’t mind as much anymore… I said maybe.
Once I started the tree under-story project I began researching daffodils and narcissus species more. The terms are often confused. In popular use, the term narcissus is more often used to describe the Tazetta group with clusters of small flowers as already described while the term Daffodil is more often reserved for larger flowered varieties but it is appropriate to call any of the various groups of narcissus, large as well as small, either narcissus or daffodils. Over centuries, daffodil enthusiasts have forced unnatural communions between the many wild species of Narcissus by dabbling at the flower’s sexual parts to move pollen from one species to another creating hybrids between the various species. Then they have further dibbled at the parts of these hybrids to cross pollinate those hybrids with each other creating an increasingly bewildering array of varieties and forms. And still they dabble on creating more and more fantastical varieties.
At first I was only searching for cheap bulbs. Once I started to see some of the crazy beautiful forms narcissus have been steered into by the sexual interference of plant breeders I started to go oooooo and ahhhhhh and found myself navigating online flower catalogues. I’ve been seized by some sort of daffodil lust. I put together ridiculously expensive shopping carts of bulbs and then don’t buy them… but I want to. I dream about them. My computer desktop shows a picture of tazetta narcissus. When normal men my age are looking at the intriguing and delicate variations of the female form on porn sites, I’m taking a break from doing so to navigate —> DaffSeek<— an extensive searchable daffodil database, looking at the intriguing and delicate forms of the genus narcissus.
When I saw Young Love, a newish variety by famous Hybridizer Grant Mitsch I fell in love… sigh…. I have feelings for this flower that some people might consider inappropriate. I must have her. She’s the kind of flower that might tempt me to leave my wife or girlfriend, make me take out my credit card when I shouldn’t and make major life decisions under the potent influence of limerance. Fortunately I don’t have to, for as long as I’m not caught by the neighbors trying to pollinate her stigma by inserting my stamen into that lovely pink and puckered corona (a proposition which seems somewhat tempting if wholly unsatisfying), mine is not a forbidden love.
Like many newish introductions in the flower world, a piece of Young Love is expensive at 10.00 a bulb. WHAT? 10.00 a bulb!? Yeah, I know…. but consider this, I can drool over a porn starlet on the internet, but I can’t have her, even for 10 bucks. Young Love will not only bloom year after year with minimal care but she will reproduce herself making increasingly more bulbs every year. Each year she will approximately double herself, an exponentially growing resource that will delight me and others and provide cut flowers for show and potentially for sale at the farmers market. Daffodil Varieties vary in their garden performance, but most are reliable and relatively trouble free. Most certainly the permanence of daffodils, the fact that a clump may endure a century or more, has always been a great draw for me. If I go to the store to look at goods I generally talk myself out of purchasing things because I always see the end of the line where I toss item X into the garbage can and it subsequently sits buried in a landfill somewhere for the next X thousands of years. But dear reader, please observe the daffodil flower bulb, a discreet natural package that can sit dried off in the open air for months before being planted in a great diversity of sites and soils where with little care it silently, steadily displays and propagates its treasures through the years. Of course most are much cheaper than young love…. though some are much much more. No doubt my love will fade somewhat or maybe it will grow deeper and more respectful as the novelty and lure of the new and shiny fades away but, either way, I have no regrets about spending my partners hard earned money on a single (though double nosed mind you!) bulb of young love. A house husband has to have some spending money.
There’s no accounting for taste. What is showy to one may appear gaudy to another and what is elegant to one is plain to someone else. Whatever the subtle and not so subtle attributes (besides pink and puckery) make this or that variety more attractive to me, my daffodil collection has grown rapidly this fall and I look forward to indulging my new obsession to what I hope will be a healthy degree. Growing, admiring, trading, photographing, giving away and maybe even a little breeding of daffodils sounds like a pretty good time to me just now. I’ll probably keep it to a dull roar as my inclination toward the practical will no doubt assert itself in subtle and not so subtle ways steering me back toward my fruit tree and vegetable projects.
To a lot of americans, Daffodils probably seem like kind of a sissy hobby for a guy, but whatcha gonna do? Sports and cars just hold no attraction for me. I do like tools and heavy metal and pretty girls and… sigh… pretty, soft, frilly daffodils :) It is not uncommon in other cultures, such as the British Isles, for men to be avid flower gardeners, but really, no really, rather than feeling a need to justify my desire to grow flowers, I find it rather amusing that I, as usual, have tastes, activities and ideas somewhat outside the norm of my culture. It is true though that as we grow older our hormone profiles change. While women are becoming sexual powerhouses (I almost said predators… oh wait, I just did) many men tend to soften a little around the edges and have more romantic feelings. maybe that has something to do with my position on the role of flowers around the homestead softening a bit over time… even (possibly) regarding the large and yellow. Maybe if I live beyond 60 I’ll be out in the yard among my Narcissus blasting our song (definitely she was asking for it by cannibal corpse) on the patio speakers and getting misty eyed while wistfully regarding the first opening Young Love bud of the season lost in nostalgic reverie of the time when I first saw her…. and she hasn’t aged a day in 20 years.