The Many Messages of Daffodils

The Many Messages of Daffodils

There are so many images to grab one’s attention at the Tate Modern Museum in London. The room covered in floor-to-ceiling war propaganda posters, Lee Ufan’s piece “From Line,” so spare, so haunting, its meaning about space that “appears within the passage of time, and when the process of creating space comes to an end, time also vanishes.”  So how did a daffodil stop me in my tracks?

In his 1937 painting, Metamorphosis of Narcissus, Salvador Dalí captured the exquisite anguish of Facebook, errr … self-love-gone-wrong. The daffodil, the birth-month flower of March, is also known as Narcissus pseudonarcissus – Narcissus, of that Greek legend of yore, where the young man was so entranced by his own reflection, he died from the frustration that he could not embrace his own mirror image. (Heed the warning, all ye who post multiple selfies and then can’t. stop. looking. at. them.)

Metamorphosis of Narcissus 1937 by Salvador Dalí 1904-1989

As the Tate describes him in Dalí’s work, Narcissus was a “great beauty who loved only himself and broke the hearts of many lovers. The gods punished him by letting him see his own reflection in a pool.” When he died from his inability to embrace his reflection, the gods immortalized him as the narcissus, daffodil, flower. For this picture Dalí’s play “with ‘double images’ sprang from Dalí’s fascination with hallucination and delusion.”

Every spring at my local Trader Joe’s, there are bunches and oodles of daffodils for mere pennies on the bloom for sale. If you’re giving them to the March baby in your life, and don’t want to write the words hallucination, delusion, or obsession with image on the birthday card, take a look at some of the common meanings for the flower: esteem, regard, and as the Daffodil Society notes, “in China, it is associated with ‘good fortune’ and in Japan, ‘mirth and joyousness.’ A French Language of Flowers postcard attributes the Narcisse with ‘esperance’ – “hope.’”

If you want to obsess over the beauty of the blooms in your own backyard, plan to plant them in the fall.  The Farmer’s Almanac suggests choosing high-quality bulbs that have not dried out, and the bigger, the better.  Two to four weeks before your first fall freeze, plant the bulbs 1-1/2 to 5 times their own depth. The site notes that “where winters are severe, make sure there is at least 3 inches of soil covering the bulb.”  I’m looking at you, polar vortex people.

And the beauty of daffodils, beside their bright, sunny colors and reminder that spring is on its way?  They’re perennials, so be sure to allow the plants to grow and yellow after the bloom – so the bulbs can gain the energy they need for the following spring.  And, as Southern Living suggests, use a bulb fertilizer at planting time, and then sprinkle it over the bulb bed each fall (follow instructions on the bag) and water it in. Look for a 10-10-20 formulation with controlled-release nitrogen.

Talk to me: about your favorite work of art that sparks your imagination, about your selfie-obsession, or about daffodils.  Do you have any in your garden? Are they starting to poke their way up into your garden?  Send photos to us via Twitter: @TheCityFarm & @RebeccaSnavely or share them with us on Facebook!

(Photos: Daffodils via LesleyLyle.com; Metamorphosis of Narcissus: Tate Modern)

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