Oakland’s daffodils are waking up and their cheerful faces help us endure these cold, wet winter days. You will see several varieties planted in the restored areas and remnants of historic plantings can be found scattered here and there. Many families planted them on family plots and these tough plants still return after all these years. The two heirloom varieties you are most likely to see are the double “Van Sion” (properly named ‘Telamonius Plenus’) and the Lent Lilies (Narcissus pseudonarcissus) with their bright yellow trumpet. Both have been in gardens for centuries and can be found throughout the south.
“Van Sion” is a shaggy double with greenish petals mixed in among the yellow. It’s an exceptionally tough survivor that’s been grown in Europe since the 1600s. “Van Sion” was already a classic in 1907 when A.M. Kirby, referred to it as “This famous double yellow daffodil of old American gardens” in his Daffodils, Narcissus & How to Grow Them.
Lent Lilies are always one of the first daffodils to bloom with petals swept forward as if eager to greet the coming spring. This little charmer is described in gardens as early as medieval times and is said to be the inspiration for Wordsworth’s famous poem. Today rows of Lent Lilies can be found outlining a front walk leading to long-gone home sites or scattered over fields that once were gardens.
Oakland’s volunteers have been working for years to return these and other bulbs to our grounds. They have assisted with rescues for the last three years, adding several thousand bulbs to the grounds. These bulbs were growing on sites slated for development and the landowners graciously encouraged us to bring them to Oakland where they could be enjoyed. You may have noticed them – rather disheveled plantings appearing in the restored areas each spring. These plants were dug one day, hauled back to Oakland and replanted a day or two later. Thankfully bulbs are tough and survive quite well, looking like nothing has happened the following year. It is hard work but our wonderful volunteers have been committed to the project.