Daffodil Doodah

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Scott Pruitt was scolded recently for flying first class at taxpayers’ expense. The Administrator of the EPA was sent back to coach class for punishment. Do me a favor if you’re squeezed in next to Mr. Pruitt, waiting for your tiny bag of pretzels. Ask him if he has a garden.

I feel sorry for lost souls who are disconnected from nature and gardening. An abundantly loved square yard or two is all it takes to get past the velvet rope of Hortus. It’s not hard to grow a few daffodils. And you don’t have to dress up.

Pruitt strikes me as a guy who might keep the shades drawn all day. I find it hard to imagine that he spends much time outdoors. I may be wrong.

I would be happy to learn that he has planted a few daffodils. And I might feel better about the native Kentuckian and climate change skeptic if he were hosting a Daffodil Doodah. It would prove, at least, that he might be fun-loving and has found some goodness on earth besides fossil fuels.

The last few weeks of February in Kentucky were wet and unusually warm. Salvisa hit a record-breaking 80 F (20 C). We weren’t alone. The Arctic had a heat wave, too. The planet’s northern-most region recorded an astounding 61 hours above freezing. Meanwhile it was snowy and cold over large parts of Europe.

 

Flooding in Salvisa on February 22nd. Mac Reid photo.

Then came the floods. The modest Salt River got out of its banks over five straight days of rain. A favorite Doc Watson song kept rattling around my head. No one sings and plays Deep River Blues better than Doc.

As the water rose, our daffodils were just beginning to poke out of the ground. The flowers took a deep breath. Small mouth bass and rotten logs swept by, surging 100 miles downstream to West Point, KY, where the Salt River empties into the Ohio River.

The daffodils survived.

This reminded me of an extraordinary tale of flooding and flowering told 40 years ago. I was working for Will Ingwersen, the alpine plants expert and author, at his nursery near the Gravetye Estate, a few miles from East Grinstead, England.

Mr. Ingwersen liked to tell a good story.

Lenten roses on dry land. March 10th.

He and Alan Bloom, author and nurseryman (who lived to be 98), both enjoyed ice-skating. Mr. Ingwersen, puffing on a pipe, told me he once visited a flooded field of flowering Lenten roses, Helleborus x hybridus, on a cold, late winter’s day at Mr. Bloom’s Breesingham Nursery in Norfolk.

The field was frozen over.

Will Ingwersen and Alan Bloom spent a surreal afternoon, ice-skating over and staring down at the blooming, saucer-shaped Lenten roses beneath their skates.

 

March 6th.

Our Salt River returned to it banks. Thousands of daffodils were beginning to bloom last week. Winter was shaken from its perch, though there was no guarantee it wouldn’t reappear.

Talented professional gardener Bruce Eveslage hatched the first Daffodil Doodah over 17 years ago, from Swampview, his home and garden in Floyds Knobs, Indiana, across the river from Louisville. A dozen friends came over for the first—ever (anywhere!)— Daffodil Doodah.

Bruce Eveslage’s Doodah invitation.

Eventually 30-40 friends were showing up for his annual gathering. The daffodils were beautiful. Bruce’s Doodah menu remained consistent—daffodils, beer, wine, bread, cheese, pork loin, Edna Lewis’s black-eyed peas and lots of desserts. Bruce was a chef at Louisville’s legendary Afro-German Tea Room before he started gardening professionally 22 years ago.

Rose and I invited Bruce to come out to Salvisa for lunch on Monday— a timid first attempt at our own Daffodil Doodah—just the three of us.

It snowed 6” the night before.

6″ of snow on March 12th.

 

Bruce Eveslage

 

Snow skating in Salvisa…Dream on.

We glided past colorful daffodils covered in snow, dressed in warm clothes and gardening boots, hands held behind our backs, pretending to skate like Will Ingwersen and Alan Bloom.

16 COMMENTS

    • The weather seems as crazy as Buffalo, NY weather and that’s saying a lot! My daffs are peeking up through the ground but I will have to patient for a long time until I expect any blooms. I love putting daffs in blue & green vases indoors to enjoy.

      • Laura, we’ve got another couple of inches of snow expected tonight and tomorrow, just when our daffodils are hitting stride. I’m going to take your advice and cut a couple of dozen bloom stems this afternoon to put in vases. A little sunshine on a cloudy day.

  1. I love the idea of a daffodil-doo-dah! Mine are just starting to open. The cold here in NJ can’t go away quickly enough to suit me.
    When it finally does, a celebration is certainly called for! <3

  2. Allen, always a pleasure to read your posts. My poor Daffs have been up & down as yours were with the wild shifts of weather in the last few weeks. They were on the property when we bought the place in ’03 & had been planted by the original owner moons ago. I even have a drift of an old fave that I call a blind bloom in that it is so full of petals that it really doesn’t open fully. Last year I contacted my old friend David Burdick, a Daffodil specialist in Massachusetts & he figured out the variety. Naturally I managed to lose the slip of paper with the name on it. It is up and blooming again this year. My first garden tour is for a group of ladies coming from East TN on the 25th. The gardens will be in something less then great shape but they are interested in what I have & the conifer collection. Should be great fun & a great way to chase the Winter Blues.

    • Paul, I’ve got plenty more daffodils coming into bloom in the next few weeks. But the best news: the sun is shining this morning with temperatures approaching the 60s this weekend. Have a good tour on the 25th. I want to get down your way…

  3. ” Snow skating in Salvisa ” reminds me of the long held belief that in the heart of every gardener lives a joyous child.

  4. We’re far enough behind you that daffodils and tulips are just showing 3-4″ of leaf, so they should be all right. But my species crocus and snowdrops have been buried in snow three times! They pop back pretty well once it melts.

    • Hey Chris, our daffodils are good for a few more weeks. Glory of snow (Chionodoxa) looks lovely now. Species tulips have a way to go. We can’t get past the rain showers that seem to roll in every few days. It’s soggy but the temperature is approaching 60 F. It’s beginning to feel like spring, though a little more sunshine would help.

  5. Having been an attendee to many of the Swampview Doodah celebrations, I never see a field of daffodils that I don’t think of Bruce and those fields of lovingly planted blooms. He knows ever variety and offers each guest a fist full to take home. Wonderful memories of dear friends together outdoors. Even today, Bruce leaves buckets of flowers beside the church parking lot with a box for your bundle. Trusting everyone to pay for what they take. He says no one ever takes without paying!

  6. My daffodil crop is almost non-existent, and is almost exclusively represented by last fall’s plantings. Even though they a situated on a rise, I’m wondering if they drowned. Anyone else facing a dearth of daffodils in Kentucky?

    • Camille, my daffodils now ranging in age from 2-5 years old are looking great this year. On Sunday, Rose I imagined we were in emerald green Ireland. A good portion of our daffodils were submerged for a day during the February flooding. No problem. Did you use a good naturalizing mix of Narcissus? All Narcissus are not equal. Be sure you use those that are best suited for naturalizing. I used Delibes, Actaea, Barret Browning, Ceylon, Fortune and Salome for our mix.

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