Oakland’s daffodils started blooming in earnest with this week’s warm weather and I was pleased to see many Oakland Cemetery visitors enjoying them. These are the Lent Lilies, or more correctly, Narcissus pseudonarcissus. They are one of the first daffodils to bloom and always brighten the gray days of February.
The “pseudos” are wild European daffodils and they form large drifts over time by self-sowing in grass and beneath trees. They have been popular in Southern gardens for hundreds of years and are known to have grown at Oakland in the past.
William Wordsworth wrote the famous poem, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” in 1804, then revised it in 1815. It is said that Wordsworth’s poem was inspired by these daffodils during a walk with his sister Dorothy on a stormy day. Dorothy wrote in her journal regularly and many believe that her entry of Thursday, April 15, 1802, describes their walk:
“The wind was furious… the Lake was rough… When we were in the woods beyond Gowbarrow park we saw a few daffodils close to the water side, we fancied that the lake had floated the seeds ashore & that the little colony had so sprung up — But as we went along there were more & yet more & at last under the boughs of the trees, we saw that there was a long belt of them along the shore, about the breadth of a country turnpike road. I never saw daffodils so beautiful they grew among the mossy stones about & about them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness & the rest tossed & reeled & danced & seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the Lake, they looked so gay ever glancing ever changing. This wind blew directly over the lake to them. There was here & there a little knot & a few stragglers a few yards higher up but they were so few as not to disturb the simplicity & unity & life of that one busy highway… — Rain came on, we were wet.”
Oakland’s bulbs have been rescued by our volunteers from long-abandoned farms and fields. These tough little plants survived years of neglect and spread among the brambles and kudzu that covered these sites. We are glad to have been able to save them and bring them back for all to enjoy.