Stories from the Barn
A hive of activity in the Hampshire downlands
A Host of Golden Daffodils
A Host of Golden Daffodils.
If there is one poem that that we share as a nation then William Wordsworth ‘Daffodils’ must be high on the list. It is such an uplifting poem that begins with that opening line;
‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’
There are moments when we are walking out in nature when we see or hear something that stops us in our tracks. It becomes a moment, like Wordsworth’s daffodils, that stays in the mind and can be replayed at will. The skylarks have taken to the air again and the other day a walk along a field edge was filled with song. With the sun on my back and the song of a handful of skylarks in my ears, it was a moment to bank in my memory.
Brief History of Daffodils.
The Romans brought daffodils to the UK and wild clumps of daffodil or narcissus spread across the landscape and have been a joyful part of our Spring time.
The name is derived from the Dutch, ‘affo dyle’ or ‘that which cometh early’. It always seems far too early when we first see the leaves of the daffodil pushing their heads through the frozen earth. There is always the worry that such gentle green sprouts will perish in the icy cold of Winter. However the daffodil is a tough plant and even when covered by snow it survives.
Shakespeare celebrated them as the flower that “comes before the swallow dares” and so for hundreds of years they have furnished us with the sense that Winter is leaving. Wild daffodils were picked from the countryside on the outskirts of London and sold by flower girls. What a lovely sight that must have been on the streets of London. To see the masses of yellow must have brought great cheer to people worn out from the cold dark days of Winter.
The flower spreads and naturalizes very readily which is why Wordsworth’s ‘ten thousand’ caught about the lake and up in the trees is totally plausible.
Commercial growing of the daffodil.
The Isles of Scilly are bathed in a warmer climate than the rest of the UK. In the late C19th William Trevellick, a potato farmer on the Isles thought there might be a market for the early flowering daffodils that grew wild alongside his potatoes. The flowers put in an appearance from early January. He decided to pick them and gather them in bunches to send to the London markets. Each week the visiting boat would collect them and deliver them to Penzance, from there by train to London. Within 48hrs the blooms were being sold on the London streets, way ahead of the mainland daffodil harvest. Commercial cropping of the daffodil followed and continues to this day
There are now thousands of different cultivars grown at daffodil farms in the south west of England. Our supermarkets tempt us with flowers that bring cheer and uplift us in equal measure. Our roadsides suddenly explode with yellow nodding heads caught up in March winds and certainly ‘dance’ as Wordsworth told us.