Friday, April 15, 2016

Betty MacDonald and Spring

Betty MacDonald in the living room at Vashon on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post.

Betty MacDonald fan club fans,

as you can read below Betty MacDonald described Spring in a perfect way. 

Spring is my favourite season.

What about you?

Wolfgang Hampel's new project Vita Magica is  fascinating because he is going to include Betty MacDonald, other members of the Bard family and Betty MacDonald fan club honor members.

Betty MacDonald fan club honor member Mr. Tigerli  and our 'Italian Betty MacDonald' - Betty MacDonald fan club honor member author and artist Letizia Mancino belong to the most popular Betty MacDonald fan club teams in our history.

Their many devoted fans are waiting for a new Mr. Tigerli adventure.

Letizia Mancino's  magical Betty MacDonald Gallery  is a special gift for our Betty MacDonald fan club fans.  

Don't miss Brad Craft's 'More friends', please. 

I'm rereading Onions in the Stew and I'd like to live on Betty MacDonald's very beautiful Vashon Island.

Dear Betty MacDonald fan club ESC fans, thank you so much for sending your votes.

We are going to publish the next Betty MacDonald fan club ESC voting result very soon. 

There are several changes.

It's really very exciting! 

Come on. Send your votes, please. It's really very exciting.

Enjoy your Friday,


Don't miss this very special book, please.

Vita Magica
Betty MacDonald fan club

Betty MacDonald forum  

Wolfgang Hampel - Wikipedia ( English ) 

Wolfgang Hampel - Wikipedia ( English ) - The Egg and I 

Wolfgang Hampel - Wikipedia ( German )

Vashon Island - Wikipedia ( German )

Wolfgang Hampel - Monica Sone - Wikipedia ( English )

Wolfgang Hampel - Ma and Pa Kettle - Wikipedia ( English )

Wolfgang Hampel - Ma and Pa Kettle - Wikipedia ( French ) 

Wolfgang Hampel - Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle - Wikipedia ( English)

Wolfgang Hampel in Florida State University 

Betty MacDonald fan club founder Wolfgang Hampel 

Betty MacDonald fan club interviews on CD/DVD

Betty MacDonald fan club items 

Betty MacDonald fan club items  - comments

Betty MacDonald fan club - The Stove and I  

Betty MacDonald fan club groups 

Betty MacDonald fan club organizer Linde Lund  

Rita Knobel Ulrich - Islam in Germany - a very interesting ZDF  ( 2nd German Television ) documentary with English subtitles 

Spring Awakening

“Until I moved to the ranch, the coming of spring had been a gradual and painless thing, like developing a bust.”

Though I’m not sure pubescent girls would characterize bust development as “gradual and painless,” I’ve never encountered such an evocative description of spring as Betty MacDonald‘s in her 1945 classic book The Egg and I. 
If you are from Washington State, you’ve likely heard of MacDonald and of this very funny book, which describes her experiences living on a small chicken farm on the Olympic Peninsula with no running water and no electricity.   

Ma and Pa Kettle (modeled after MacDonald’s slacker neighbors) originated in The Egg and I, and were featured in its 1947 film adaptation, starring Fred McMurray and Claudette Colbert.
They may also have originated the concept of the “spin-off.”

Ma and Pa Kettle (film)

Ma and Pa Kettle (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
What I didn’t realize until reading The Egg and I, is that Betty MacDonald was a trailblazer in the art of food writing.
“..there was so much of everything and it was so inexpensive and so easy to get that it was inevitable that we should expect to eat like kings,” she writes of Pacific Northwest bounty, such as fresh field mushrooms, clams, oysters, steelhead salmon and Dungeness Crab “We’d go on regular crab sprees –eat cracked crab with  homemade mayonnaise well-flavored with garlic and Worcestershire, until it ran out of our ears. Have deviled crab, crab Louis and crab claws sauteed in butter and served with Tartar sauce.”  At the time, she notes, she could buy a gunnysack full of Dungeness crabs for $1.
Sadly, she was not a fan of geoduck.

It's the largest burrowing clam in the world, and a local favorite.
Still, all that natural bounty from the garden and berry bushes could be oppressive come canning season.

MacDonald describes herself as “lyrical with joy” when her pressure cooker blew up.
“I was free! Free! F-R-E-E!”
Her practical husband calmly picked up the Sears Roebuck catalogue and ordered her another.
Global warming notwithstanding, MacDonald’s 1945 description of Seattle springs holds true today:  “Seattle spring was a delicate flower of the pale gray winter –a pastel prelude to the pale yellow summer which flowed gently into the lavender autumn and on into the pale gray winter.  It was all very subtle and we wore the same clothes the year around (note that this was written long before the invention of fleece – our native dress) and often had beach fires in January but found it too cold for them in June..”

From Tim Jones' (a self-described minivan-driving soccer dad) blog "View from the Bleachers."

What she means is that despite the changes in season, we can be cold here, all year round. I write this, wrapped in a blanket, looking out the window as sunlight strobes on and off my plum trees, which are already past their bloom.  It hailed last week, and all this week the weather has ping-ponged from lion-like to lamb-like and back.
So it’s lucky that we have seasonal bounty to warm and sustain us and especially lucky that we can leave the growing to the trusted professionals, yet still eat like kings and even can at our discretion.
Like most Sundays, this past Sunday I walked to the Ballard Farmers Market to see what was new for spring.

My favorite fish guys.

 I emerged with beets, radishes, stinging nettles, jerusalem artichokes and freshly caught salmon and had fun all week cooking lighter spring fare.  David Lebovitz was generous enough to share on Facebook that Amazon was offering a special promotion of Dorie Greenspan cookbooks.
 I was among the lucky who nabbed Around My French Table and Baking: From my home to yours for $10, including shipping.  We ate Dorie’s salmon with tapenade and Jerusalem artichokes roasted with garlic, and Three Beet Caviar with Endive and Goat Cheese and Nettle Frittata with Garlic and Ricotta (the latter two recipes from Deborah Madison’s inspirational book “Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America’s Farmers’ Markets”  Urged by Dorie Greenspan, I whipped up a batch of creme fraiche, and while I was at it, replenished my supply of preserved lemons.
I’m ready for spring.

A tulip field in the nearby Skagit Valley.

Though Jeff is resigned to the fact that you won’t find me working in our garden (I’ve finally had to stop bragging about the 50 bulbs I planted on Daughter #1’s first day of pre-school 11 years ago), you will find me happily in the kitchen.
Soon the sun will become a more familiar presence and our markets will abound with fava beans (the fresh ones are labor intensive, but great in so many ways, especially with pecorino cheese) and pea vines and fiddlehead ferns and shoots of all sorts and morels, glorious morels.

I first learned about Betty MacDonald when my kids were little and we read the hilarious Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books, in which kids were cured of their bad habits by this magical woman who lived in an upside-down house (my favorite:  the kids who refused to take a bath and was allowed to get so dirty that her parents were able to plant radishes on her).
When daughter #1 started kindergarten and I was perhaps a little weepy, I decided that, like the mothers MacDonald wrote about, I would greet her after school with a freshly baked cake.
It didn’t last long, but over the years I’ve tried various recipes for French yogurt cake, which along with tartines, is a popular after school snack a la francaise.  
Dorie Greenspan has a recipe in her baking book, which I made this week, and Molly Wizenberg has a nice, lemony recipe which first appeared on her blog Orangette and can also be found in her book A Homemade Life.  I’m including it here.
It’s a nice pick-me-up when the sun goes behind the clouds or you are agonizing over the gradual and not always painless emergence of your bust, or for that matter, the inevitable drooping of said bust at mid-life.
Bon appetit.
If you are interested in having a modern version of the Betty MacDonald experience, check out my friend Joshua MacNichol’s Urban Farm Handbook:  City Slicker Resources for Growing, Raising, Sourcing, Trading and Preparing What You Eat.

4 thoughts on “Spring Awakening”

  1. I’m back East and this just made me homesick. I’ll be back next weekend and have already decided which Farmers Markets I’ll be dropping by. While everyone here, (NH), are donning winter coats and scarves I’m perfectly comfortable in my very Seattle clothing choices. I really enjoy your blog!

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David Cameron left dangerously exposed by Panama Papers fallout

PM gives only partial answers over father’s fund as revelations reverberate globally, forcing his Icelandic counterpart to resign

David Cameron faces questions from journalists about his family’s tax affairs during a visit to PwC in Birmingham
David Cameron was left dangerously exposed on Tuesday after repeatedly failing to provide a clear and full account about links to an offshore fund set up by his late father, as the storm over the Panama Papers gathered strength in both the UK and elsewhere around the world.
The prime minister and his office have now offered three partial answers about the fund set up by his father Ian, which avoided ever paying tax in Britain. The key unanswered question is whether the prime minister’s family stands to gain in the future from his father’s company, Blairmore, an investment fund run from the Bahamas.

After Downing Street said on Monday that the fund was a “private matter”, a journalist asked Cameron about it during a visit to Birmingham on Tuesday. Cameron replied: “I own no shares, no offshore trusts, no offshore funds, nothing like that. And, so that, I think, is a very clear description.” He dodged the key part of the question about whether he or his family stood to benefit. Having failed to satisfy reporters, Downing Street issued a further statement that Cameron’s wife and children also do not benefit from offshore funds but again left the main question about the future unanswered. The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who had called earlier in the day for an independent investigation, told the Guardian: “Three times Downing Street has been asked to provide a full and comprehensive answer. The public has a right to know the truth.
“We need to know the full extent of the links between Britain and the web of tax avoidance and evasion revealed by the Panama Papers at all levels.”

The leak of 11.5m files from the Panama-based Mossack Fonseca continued to create uproar and upheaval around the world. The documents were leaked to the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, which shared them with the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the Guardian, the BBC and other media organisations.
The latest developments include:

  • Barack Obama calling for tax evasion to be tackled worldwide.
  • The row claimed its first victim, Iceland’s prime minister, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, who resigned in a row over his family’s offshore investments.
  • The German justice minister, Heiko Maas, said the country planned to introduce a new national transparency register to make offshore companies disclose their owners’ identity.
  • France’s finance minister announced that Panama would again be blacklisted as an uncooperative tax haven.
  • Pakistan’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, announced that he would set up an independent judicial commission to investigate whether his family was involved in anything illegal through ownership several offshore companies.
  • Revelations that the president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, has secretly built one of the single biggest offshore property empires in Britain, owning dozens of central London properties worth more than £1.2bn through offshore companies supplied by Mossack Fonseca.
The row embroiling Cameron picked up pace on Tuesday morning when Corbyn responded to Downing Street’s assertion that the matter was private by telling reporters: “Well, it’s a private matter insofar as it’s a privately held interest. But it’s not a private matter if tax is not being paid. So an investigation must take place, an independent investigation, unprejudiced, to decide whether or not tax has been paid.”

Later in the day, Cameron told reporters: “In terms of my own financial affairs, I own no shares. I have a salary as prime minister and I have some savings, which I get some interest from and I have a house, which we used to live in, which we now let out while we are living in Downing Street and that’s all I have.”
Downing Street returned to the issue later. A No 10 spokesperson said: “To be clear, the prime minister, his wife and their children do not benefit from any offshore funds. The prime minister owns no shares.

“As has been previously reported, Mrs Cameron owns a small number of shares connected to her father’s land, which she declares on her tax return.” Downing Street also attempted to shift the argument back to Labour. A source called on people “suggesting that Mr Cameron and his family are benefiting from off shore trusts” to come forward with evidence. “The onus is on them to put up or shut up. The prime minister has put out a very clear statement.” As well as pressing Cameron, Corbyn called for a cleanup of Britain’s overseas territories and dependencies, such as the British Virgin Islands, which accounts for about half the companies named in the Panama Papers, the Cayman Islands and Anguilla. He said the government should consider imposing direct rule on British overseas territories and crown dependencies, which lie at the heart of the allegations.
The government had already scheduled a meeting of G7 countries in London on 12 May to discuss the overseas territories and crown dependencies. Tax campaigners, however, said that government officials had been downplaying expectations for months, telling them that tax would not be high on the agenda and that instead the main item would be corruption, such as the low-level bribery of officials.
The shadow leader of the Commons, Chris Bryant, who was responsible for overseas territories and dependencies when Labour was in power and was involved in a standoff with them over transparency, said: “There is a great deal of power the government has if it chooses to exercise it, even without the nuclear option of direct rule.”
He said he had pressed them to be more transparent and tried to put pressure on them by refusing to authorise loans, but the standoff ended when the Conservatives took power.
The City regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, also responded to the Panama Papers. It said: “The FCA has written to a number of firms about this issue, including those on our systematic anti-money laundering programme, and we are working closely with a number of other agencies who are also looking at this.
“As part of our responsibility to ensure the integrity of the UK financial markets, we require all authorised firms to have systems and controls in place to mitigate the risk that they might be used to commit financial crime. We have also today published our annual business plan which identifies financial crime and anti-money laundering activity as one of our priorities for the year.”
In the US, Obama addressed reporters at the White House, making the highest profile intervention yet in favour of the global reform of tax avoidance.
“There is no doubt that the problem of global tax avoidance generally is a huge problem. The problem is that a lot of this stuff is legal, not illegal,” he said.
The US president said the leak from Panama illustrated the scale of tax avoidance involving Fortune 500 companies, running into trillions of dollars worldwide.
“We shouldn’t make it legal to engage in transactions just to avoid taxes,” he said, praising instead “the basic principle of making sure everyone pays their fair share”.
Only about 200 US citizens have been identified so far in the leaked data, but the US justice department, which aggressively pursues cases both domestically but internationally, issued a statement saying it “takes very seriously all credible allegations of high level, foreign corruption that might have a link to the United States or the US financial system”.

Following in Betty’s footsteps in Seattle:

or some small talk with Betty

Copyright 2011/2016 by Letizia Mancino
All rights reserved
translated by Mary Holmes

We were going to Canada in the summer. “When we are in Edmonton”, I said to Christoph Cremer, “let’s make a quick trip to Seattle”. And that’s how it happened. At Edmonton Airport we climbed into a plane and two hours later we landed in the city where Betty had lived. I was so happy to be in Seattle at last and to be able to trace Betty’s tracks!

Wolfgang Hampel had told Betty’s friends about our arrival.
They were happy to plan a small marathon through the town and it’s surroundings with us. We only had a few days free. One should not underestimate Wolfgang’s talent in speedily mobilizing Betty’s friends, even though it was holiday time. E-mails flew backwards and forwards between Heidelberg and Seattle, and soon a well prepared itinerary was ready for us. Shortly before my departure Wolfgang handed me several parcels, presents for Betty MacDonald's friends. I rushed to pack the heavy gifts in my luggage but because of the extra weight had to throw out a pair of pajamas!

After we had landed we took a taxi to the Hotel in downtown Seattle. I was so curious to see everything. I turned my head in all directions like one of the hungry hens from Betty’s farm searching for food! Fortunately it was quite a short journey otherwise I would have lost my head like a loose screw!
Our hotel room was on the 22nd floor and looked directly out onto the 16-lane highway. There might have been even more than 16 but it made me too giddy to count! It was like a glimpse of hell! “And is this Seattle?” I asked myself. I was horrified! The cars racing by were enough to drive one mad. The traffic roared by day and night.
We immediately contacted Betty MacDonald's friends and let them know we had arrived and they confirmed the times when we should see them.

On the next morning I planned my first excursion tracing Betty’s tracks. I spread out the map of Seattle. “Oh dear” I realized “the Olympic Peninsula is much too far away for me to get there.”
Betty nodded to me! “Very difficult, Letizia, without a car.”

“But I so much wanted to see your chicken farm”

“My chickens are no longer there and you can admire the mountains from a distance”

But I wanted to go there. I left the hotel and walked to the waterfront where the State Ferry terminal is. Mamma mia, the streets in Seattle are so steep! I couldn’t prevent my feet from running down the hill. Why hadn’t I asked for brakes to be fixed on my shoes? I looked at the drivers. How incredibly good they must be to accelerate away from the red traffic lights. The people were walking uphill towards me as briskly as agile salmon. Good heavens, these Americans! I tried to keep my balance. The force of gravity is relentless. I grasped hold of objects where I could and staggered down.
In Canada a friend had warned me that in Seattle I would see a lot of people with crutches.

Betty laughed. “ It’s not surprising, Letizia, walking salmon don’t fall directly into the soft mouth of a bear!”
“ Betty, stop making these gruesome remarks. We are not in Firlands!”

I went further. Like a small deranged ant at the foot of a palace monster I came to a tunnel. The noise was unbearable. On the motorway, “The Alaskan Way Viaduct”, cars, busses and trucks were driving at the speed of light right over my head. They puffed out their poisonous gas into the open balconies and cultivated terraces of the luxurious sky- scrapers without a thought in the world. America! You are crazy!
“Betty, are all people in Seattle deaf? Or is it perhaps a privilege for wealthy people to be able to enjoy having cars so near to their eyes and noses to save them from boredom?”

“When the fog democratically allows everything to disappear into nothing, it makes a bit of a change, Letizia”

“ Your irony is incorrigible, Betty, but tell me, Seattle is meant to be a beautiful city, But where?”

I had at last reached the State Ferry terminal.

“No Madam, the ferry for Vashon Island doesn’t start from here,” one of the men in the ticket office tells me. ”Take a buss and go to the ferry terminal in West Seattle.”
Betty explained to me “The island lies in Puget Sound and not in Elliott Bay! It is opposite the airport. You must have seen it when you were landing!”
“Betty, when I am landing I shut my eyes and pray!”

It’s time for lunch. The weather is beautiful and warm. Who said to me that it always rains here?
“Sure to be some envious man who wanted to frighten you away from coming to Seattle. The city is really beautiful, you’ll see. Stay by the waterfront, choose the best restaurant with a view of Elliott Bay and enjoy it.”
“Thank you Betty!”

I find a table on the terrace of “Elliott’s Oyster House”. The view of the island is wonderful. It lies quietly in the sun like a green fleecy cushion on the blue water.
Betty plays with my words:
“Vashon Island is a big cushion, even bigger than Bainbridge which you see in front of your eyes, Letizia. The islands look similar. They have well kept houses and beautiful gardens”.

I relax during this introduction, “Bainbridge” you are Vashon Island, and order a mineral water.

“At one time the hotel belonging to the parents of Monica Sone stood on the waterfront.”
“Oh, of your friend Kimi!” Unfortunately I forget to ask Betty exactly where it was.

My mind wanders and I think of my mountain hike back to the hotel! “Why is there no donkey for tourists?” Betty laughs:

“I’m sure you can walk back to the hotel. “Letizia can do everything.””

“Yes, Betty, I am my own donkey!”

But I don’t remember that San Francisco is so steep. It doesn’t matter, I sit and wait. The waiter comes and brings me the menu. I almost fall off my chair!
“ What, you have geoduck on the menu! I have to try it” (I confess I hate the look of geoduck meat. Betty’s recipe with the pieces made me feel quite sick – I must try Betty’s favourite dish!)
“Proof that you love me!” said Betty enthusiastically “ Isn’t the way to the heart through the stomach?”

I order the geoduck. The waiter looks at me. He would have liked to recommend oysters.
“Geoduck no good for you!”
Had he perhaps read my deepest thoughts? Fate! Then no geoduck. “No good for me.”

“Neither geoduck nor tuberculosis in Seattle” whispered Betty in my ear!
“Oh Betty, my best friend, you take such good care of me!”

I order salmon with salad.

“Which salmon? Those that swim in water or those that run through Seattle?”

“Betty, I believe you want me to have a taste of your black humour.”

“Enjoy it then, Letizia.”

During lunch we talked about tuberculosis, and that quite spoilt our appetite.

“Have you read my book “The Plague and I”?”

“Oh Betty, I’ve started to read it twice but both times I felt so sad I had to stop again!”

“But why?” asked Betty “Nearly everybody has tuberculosis! I recovered very quickly and put on 20 pounds! There was no talk of me wasting away! What did you think of my jokes in the book?”

“Those would have been a good reason for choosing another sanitorium. I would have been afraid of becoming a victim of your humour! You would have certainly given me a nickname! You always thought up such amusing names!” Betty laughed.

“You’re right. I would have called you “Roman nose”. I would have said to Urbi and Orbi “ Early this morning “Roman nose” was brought here. She speaks broken English, doesn’t eat geoduck but she does love cats.”

“Oh Betty, I would have felt so ashamed to cough. To cough in your presence, how embarrassing! You would have talked about how I coughed, how many coughs!”

“It depends on that “how”, Letizia!”

“Please, leave Goethe quotations out of it. You have certainly learnt from the Indians how to differentiate between noises. It’s incredible how you can distinguish between so many sorts of cough! At least 10!”

“So few?”

”And also your descriptions of the patients and the nurses were pitiless. An artistic revenge! The smallest pimple on their face didn’t escape your notice! Amazing.”

“ I was also pitiless to myself. Don’t forget my irony against myself!”

Betty was silent. She was thinking about Kimi, the “Princess” from Japan! No, she had only written good things about her best friend, Monica Sone, in her book “The Plague and I”. A deep friendship had started in the hospital. The pearl that developed from the illness.
“Isn’t it wonderful, Betty, that an unknown seed can make its way into a mollusk in the sea and develop into a beautiful jewel?” Betty is paying attention.

“Betty, the friendship between you and Monica reminds me of Goethe’s poem “Gingo-Biloba”. You must know it?” Betty nods and I begin to recite it:

The leaf of this Eastern tree
Which has been entrusted to my garden
Offers a feast of secret significance,
For the edification of the initiate.

Is it one living thing.
That has become divided within itself?
Are these two who have chosen each other,
So that we know them as one?

The friendship with Monica is like the wonderful gingo-biloba leaf, the tree from the east. Betty was touched. There was a deep feeling of trust between us.
“Our friendship never broke up, partly because she was in distress, endangered by the deadly illness. We understood and supplemented each other. We were like one lung with two lobes, one from the east and one from the west!”
“A beautiful picture, Betty. You were like two red gingo-biloba leaves!”

Betty was sad and said ” Monica, although Japanese, before she really knew me felt she was also an American. But she was interned in America, Letizia, during the second world war. Isn’t that terrible?”

“Betty, I never knew her personally. I have only seen her on a video, but what dignity in her face, and she speaks and moves so gracefully!”

“Fate could not change her”

“Yes, Betty, like the gingo-biloba tree in Hiroshima. It was the only tree that blossomed again after the atom bomb!”

The bill came and I paid at once. In America one is urged away from the table when one has finished eating. If one wants to go on chatting one has to order something else.
“That’s why all those people gossiping at the tables are so fat!” Betty remarks. “Haven’t you seen how many massively obese people walk around in the streets of America. Like dustbins that have never been emptied!” With this typically unsentimental remark Betty ended our conversation.

Ciao! I so enjoyed the talk; the humour, the irony and the empathy. I waved to her and now I too felt like moving! I take a lovely walk along the waterfront.

Now I am back in Heidelberg and when I think about how Betty’s “Princessin” left this world on September 5th and that in August I was speaking about her with Betty in Seattle I feel very sad. The readers who knew her well (we feel that every author and hero of a book is nearer to us than our fleeting neighbours next door) yes we, who thought of her as immortal, cannot believe that even she would die after 92 years. How unforeseen and unexpected that her death should come four days after her birthday on September 1th. On September 5th I was on my way to Turkey, once again in seventh heaven, looking back on the unforgettable days in Seattle. I was flying from west to east towards the rising sun.

In the Garden: A Welcome Sign of Spring

By Charles Kidder


Perhaps the first plant I could recognize and name as a child was the daffodil, a welcome sight and fragrance after a long New York winter. And although native to the Mediterranean, daffodils (Narcissus species) have been in Virginia since at least the middle of the seventeenth century.

Beginning in the 1890s, Gloucester County became a center of daffodil production for much of the eastern United States. Much of this revolved around “wild” or naturalized daffodils that were cut and shipped north. By the middle of the twentieth century, this industry was rapidly dying off for a variety of reasons. But Gloucester County still has one daffodil breeder of note and continues to celebrate its floral heritage with the Daffodil Festival on the last weekend of March. More on that later.

The various Narcissus species, hybrids and cultivars are commonly referred to as either daffodils, jonquils or even simply narcissus, the latter especially when referring to the paper whites commonly forced indoors. The term jonquil is commonly used in certain regions for any daffodil, but technically refers only to one group that has narrow reed-like foliage. The various daffodils are divided into 13 divisions—or 12, if you believe some sources—that are based on flower shape and heritage. For example, Division 1 daffodils are called Trumpets, since the central portion or trumpet is quite long. Regardless of division, colors range from yellow to white, perhaps with some pink or orange in the trumpets. If you seek out specialty nurseries, hundreds of cultivars are available.

All daffodils have similar cultural requirements. As for the amount of sun they want, the more the better. Part sun, or about six hours per day, is sufficient, but less sun than that will lead to reduced blooming, even though the plants may soldier on for a long time. And sunlight in a deciduous woodland does not really count as full sunlight. As for soil, good drainage is important to avoid bulb rot. If your soil is unusually sodden, either amend it with gravel or put daffodils in a raised bed.

Daffodil bulbs should be planted at a depth equal to about three times their diameter, so a two-inch bulb should be six inches deep. Six inches is also a good distance between bulbs. Farther apart and they lose visual impact; closer, and they will require division sooner. Bulbs will look funny planted like soldiers in a straight line, so if you have ten bulbs, better to either plant them in two groups of five, or in a staggered double row. If you are planting a very large number, you can avoid an overly orderly appearance by picking up a handful and tossing them to the general area in which you wish to plant.

There are any number of “new, improved, back-saving!!” bulb planters out there. Use whatever works best for you, which might just be an ordinary trowel or even a garden shovel. And remember: nothing says you have to plant one bulb at a time. You can take a spade and dig up a good-sized hole with one or two punches, and then throw in three to five bulbs. For even larger areas, a rototiller might be the quickest option. And do the bulbs have to be pointy-side up? That’s the ideal, but the shoot will always get turned around and pointed toward the sky anyway. If you’re in a hurry, ensuring that the bulbs are at least on their side would be a good compromise.

Amending your soil with compost will definitely give your daffodils a boost, but there’s no need to fertilize when planting—which of course is not now, but in mid-to-late fall. In very early spring, a balanced fertilizer—about 5-5-5 or 10-10-10 is best—should be sprinkled around the plants just as their foliage emerges. (You can also do this in the fall, but that assumes you’ll remember where your daffodils are!) And speaking of feeding your daffodils, we all know what to do with their foliage, which is there to provide nutrients for the bulb, right? Doing nothing is perfectly okay. Or when the foliage turns yellow and lies on the ground, you can throw some mulch on it if the sight offends you. Do not cut the foliage off while it’s still green or tie it up in cutesy knots! That prevents movement of nutrients down to the bulb; plus, it takes a lot of valuable gardening time.

But back to Gloucester County. The annual Daffodil Festival takes place on the last weekend of March and includes the usual attractions: a parade, a queen, entertainers, a race, a car show, and of course, daffodils. (A full schedule is available on the county’s website. There’s also a link to the history of daffodil farming in this corner of Virginia.) On Saturday they will be running frequent buses over to Brent and Becky’s Bulbs for tours and shopping. Brent and Becky Heath own a business that has been in the family for several generations, at one time operating as the Daffodil Mart. Although they now sell many other types of bulbs, daffodils are still a specialty, with over 200 varieties available.

Once planted, daffodils tend to naturalize, meaning they spread slowly, but never seem to become invasive. Part of their secret to longevity might be their poisonous nature: deer and other critters don’t bother them, so you can enjoy your host of daffodils for many years.
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1 Comment

When we saw the daffodils pop in our neighborhood, it reminded us that Spring is just about here!
We love this time of year!