Friday, July 21, 2017  


Dance With The Daffodils: Gloucester's annual daffodil show

On March 29 and 30, The Garden Club of Virginia for the seventy-eighth year is holding its annual Daffodil Show. This show, sanctioned by the American Daffodil Society, also serves as the Middle Atlantic Regional Show. Adding to the auspiciousness of this year’s event is the location: Gloucester County. The sponsors for this year (and next)
are the members of the Garden Club of Gloucester who for the last sixty-two years have produced their own sanctioned show. These people know about showing daffodils.

Whether you are an experienced grower and shower or just learning about daffodils, you will want to come to the event at Ware Academy, 7936 John Clayton Memorial Highway on Rt 14/3 just north-east of Gloucester Court House to celebrate spring with what the poet Shelley called “the fairest flower of them all.”

Gloucester has a glorious history with daffodils; since the earliest days of colonization, daffodils loved our sandy soil, flowering lavishly, and Gloucester residents loved them back. Well before the twentieth century naturalized as well as “farmed” daffodils were picked and sent by steamboat to Baltimore for sale by the florists there. This practice grew, so that many landowners with a plot to spare got into the act. Year after year shipments of locally grown flowers went off to northern cities; sales were particularly good when Easter fell early in the spring. Ultimately, business dwindled with the ending of the steamboat era and the Great Depression, but even though so much of the farmland was returned to other crops, many of the daffodils persisted in returning. They just have kept coming up in the ditches and on roadsides where they had been tossed aside. Go anywhere in the county in March and April (or sometimes, like this year, January on) and you will be greeted by these cheerful remnants. Also, you can enjoy seeing a profusion of plots planted all about the county in recent years. We now even have a Daffodil Festival complete with a princess and parade. Usually falling the same time as the Show it could not this year. But you will nevertheless clearly see, Gloucester really loves its daffodils.

Our oldest continuing industry, now internationally known as Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, evolved when early in the last century Charles Heath, Brent’s grandfather, began a mail-order business shipping flowers as well as importing newer and better cultivars. Today, they sell bulbs to wholesale and retail purchasers, have a display garden open by appointment to thousands of visitors from everywhere each spring, and are a sought-after educational source through Becky’s elegantly composed catalog and Brent’s lectures, world-wide.  People are fascinated to learn all about the history of the narcissus (botanical name) and from where it derived.

In Greek mythology Narcissus, a handsome swain, while gazing adoringly at his own reflection in a pool, became so enamored with himself that he fell in, drowned and was turned into the flower we now adore. Ironically, closely associated with the word narcissus is narcotic, the poisonous alkaloid in the bulbs. When ingested, this ingredient causes quick stupor and even death. (But that’s good in your garden as the deer do not touch your daffodil bulbs.)
Daffodils have been recorded in history as early as the second century B.C. They are believed to have been native to the area around the Mediterranean Sea and were an important flower to both the Greeks and the Romans. They have been found in Asian countries for hundreds of years, but in our area they most certainly came with the first English settlers. Over the centuries, they have been hybridized and developed in delicious diversity,
now displayed in thirteen different categories at the Show.

Everything you need to know about the show is in the carefully designed brochure called “The Schedule,” also referred to as “The Law of the Show.” If you have access to a computer, it’s online through www.gcvirginia.org. You may register online for the horticulture classes (since January) and advanced registration is required for the artistic classes. The Registration Chairmen are Becky Meeker (Mrs. David N.): 804- 693-4490, rbmeeker8@yahoo.com and Joan Jackson (Mrs. Wayne): 804-693-6266. You may request a schedule from either of these two ladies.

Workrooms will be open at the school at 2 p.m. until 9 p.m. Wednesday, March 28. The theme of the show for the artistic options is appropriately “Gloucester Heritage” with class titles referring to notable places, such as our historic churches or our quaint Court House Circle. A novice class for those who’ve never won a blue ribbon in a GCV show requires the depiction of a “landscape design a Boy Scout might find in nature” honoring the little building that was a WPA project Boy Scout Troop 111 saved from demolition.

A happy, and most popular, addition to the state Show is the Junior Class: 7-9 year olds depicting “What fun it would be to ride on the Daffodil Parade Float” and 10-13 year olds “Gloucester County gives tribute to its watermen!” Since these classes fill up fast, contestants must register by March 23rd with Nina Watkins: 804-642-2826, twiceasnice@widowmaker.com.

Awards are announced at 2:30 Thursday March 29 by Kim Nash President of The Garden Club of Virginia. The Show is open to the public with a Green Offering from 2- 6 Thursday and 9-1 Friday.
Before you enter, you might derive inspiration from Brent and Becky’s book Daffodils for American Gardens or just go to that often memorized poem by Wordsworth, “I wandered lonely as a cloud”.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

But be assured, you will not have to “wander lonely as a cloud” to gaze upon the “host of golden daffodils.” Your heart will surely dance with the daffodils in Gloucester March 29th and 30th at the Garden Club of Virginia’s Daffodil Show.

by Tabb Farinholt