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we like it wild: daffodil hill

by Grace Bonney

On a rainy Sunday at the farmer’s market this week we weren’t expecting to find anything too exciting. With the weather as it was, we weren’t sure if we’d find anything at all. To our surprise we found buckets of sunshine under a soggy tent belonging to Bill, the self-proclaimed Bulb Baron of the Central Coast. Bill has a passion for the narcissus genus and sells his flowers at local markets (and for those not lucky enough to visit in person his amazing bulb varieties are available to purchase through his website). He was also kind enough to identify each of the flowers we purchased. The smaller heavily fragrant flowers such as Paper Whites and Early Splendor are often referred to as Narcissus, where the larger varieties like The Bride and Tonga, are commonly referred to as daffodils.

These perennials are ideal candidates for potted gardens, but grow amazingly well almost anywhere in the garden with little attention and can continue to bloom for years (keep these sun-loving beauties out of the shade and they’ll be happiest). The varieties that Bill the Bulb Baron grows happen to be best for growing in our area of California, in a Mediterranean-like climate, but traditionally daffodils or dutch bulbs are very cold tolerant and actually need a “freeze” treatment in order to flower, so don’t despair if you live in colder climates. The daffodil recently became the official flower of New York City and thanks to the city’s Daffodil Project, begun as a commemoration of September 11th in an effort to replace the city’s neglected open spaces with flowers, nearly four million daffodils bloom in New York City annually with another 500,000 bulbs being planted each year. If these flowers can live through an east coast winter and still come out swinging, then we think we can endorse them for almost any garden.

If you’re getting flowers from your own garden make sure not to damage any leaves as these tender greens store the energy that will be required to produce next season’s flowers. If the plant’s leaves are cut before they naturally die down, the bulbs won’t get the nourishment that they need. If you plan on using daffodils with other flowers in any arrangement, make sure to separate them in their own bucket of water for a few hours beforehand to help leach out some of the sappy toxins that can quickly clog the stems of other flowers.

We gathered an armful of Bill’s offerings combined with some larger varieties from the flower market to make daffodil hills, small round arrangements that work best with lots of tightly packed blooms. We thought these fun little mounds would be great centerpieces for a spring brunch and look great combined with single stems in bottles and jars. Start with a few stems of different varieties, forming a round shape on top. While holding the stems tightly, add a row of more flowers very close together under the first few stems. The second row should help push up and support the heads as they sometimes like to look down. Continue adding rows to your bundle until you have a tallish, round mound. You may need to feed in a few stems from the top to fill out the shape. When you are happy with your hill, rubber band the stems together at the bottom of the stalks, then slide it up to the very top to keep your tightly bunched shape. Then cut the stems really short and rest them on a shallow vase or dish of water to display. Use a floral frog if your hill is too tall to remain upright and balanced on its own. In cut arrangements or given as potted bulbs, these sunny flowers help take the gray out of any day.

CLICK HERE for more beautiful daffodil images after the jump!

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  • Beautiful! You know spring is around the corner when you start seeing daffodils.
    Right now, I have yellow mums on my table, but I think daffodils are up next.

  • absolutely gorgeous! I love having flowers around my apartment and these are so pretty. Certainly cheers me up since I’m in a classroom made with cinder blocks and no windows.

  • What is the name of the white flower with pink/peach throat, as seen in the first image?

  • Thank u SO much for this beautiful, informative post. I had no idea that the daffodil became NYC’s official flower and it’s snowing so hard here today. I can’t wait to find some and make some hills!

  • Where I went to college, Kent State University, there’s a hill of daffodils that bloom in memory of the victims of the May 4th shootings in 1970. It’s a nice place to sit and watch everything go by. One of my favorite signs of spring.

  • As I read your post, I can look out in my yard and see the leaves of my daffodils standing about 4″ high. Soon they will be blooming also. Last year then kept blooming until late May!

  • WOW, daffodils are so lovely their colours and its amazing the different shades of yellow and orange they come in. But the weather is never suited for them to grow in my own garden.

  • The Daffodils are heavenly, and I wish I had a place to grow pretty flowers in Fort Lauderdale. Unfortunately there is a lot of concrete to over come.
    I absolutely adore you blog…

  • Beautiful! Yellow is my favorite color so I thank you for posting these delicious photos. We are still under snow here and I cannot wait till the daffodils come up.

  • Im a California Central Coast transplant living in Kansas City, and these beautiful narcissus popped up on my screen and made me smile! Bill is a staple at the downtown Santa Cruz market in the spring, I miss his flowers so much!! Next year I will order some of those bulbs.

  • Thank you for profiling one of my favorite flowers! And also for the distinction between Narcissus and Daffodil- I always wondered. Daffodils were my favorite flower when I was little because they always bloom, in Boston, around my birthday…in late April!

  • I adore daffodils. No other flower reminds me of spring the way daffodils do. And these look gorgeous. Thanks for including the different varieties, too. I’m off to recite some Wordsworth now….

  • Thank you for the lovely images on such a dreary day. This post (and Michael’s comment) made me smile.

    Daffodil Storm! YES!

  • I agree- thanks for posting these great shots on such a grey day in NYC! Daffodils are by far my favorite flower! So cheap and such a nice flower to brighten up an apt!

  • Oh cute!! they’re so happy.

    Here in oz they sell daffodils to raise money for cancer which is fabulous :)


  • I will be posting about these sweet little flowers tomorrow. I was just in Santa Cruz yesterday and met Bill, and fell in love with these flowers!! Amazing, and great photos! xo

  • These remind me of when we lived in Memphis- the daffodils and azaleas are so amazing there! Thanks for the trip down memory lane… :)

  • Bill is wonderful! I’ve been buying his bulbs and flowers for a few years here in Santa Cruz. So exciting to see him on your blog! He’s the real deal. Be sure to check out his naked ladies in the fall!

  • This is so amazing!!! I was just looking for a picture of spring sunshine to put as my background :)

  • @Leslie from my experience working at a dutch flower bulb company, that is a salmoné or salmon colored narcissus. same as the rest of the daffs but more pink than orange

  • The very best thing about growing daffodils is that the deer don’t like the way they taste!!! So where I live in Ohio you actually get flowers. We’ve stopped planting tulips because of the deer. : ( Thanks for your pictures of flower sunshine, I needed it.

  • Yes, as Marti said, the deer don’t like the daffodils — they are actually toxic to deer! I have hundreds of them here in Northeast Ohio where they always bloom the first weekn in April.

  • I know Bill too- he’s a lovely person and his daffodils are the most gorgeous things. They have always been my favorite flower.

    PS- Bill has pick-your-own daffodils at his growing fields in Carmel Valley! We road-trip there every February and bring home a huge bucketful. Heaven…

  • I went to high school with Bill the Bulb Baron. We always called him Butterfly Bill, as he used to run a round with a butterfly net. He was into botany and entomology way back when. Love his bulbs, and , the deer wont eat the flowers.

  • Beautiful photos. It’s surprising though the flowers are sold when they are already in bloom??? Here (The Netherlands) the narcissus are only sold when the flowers are still ‘packed’.

  • After seeing this post I went to grab a quick bite at WFM and they had unopened bunches of daffodils and I bought a couple of bunches and when I woke up this morning to a bright cheerful surprise, they all opened in the night.

  • Daffodils are hopeful reminders that sunnier days are ahead and that the long chill of Winter will soon be brightened by the first blooms of Spring. They are my annual anniversary of re-energized delight. I bought my first bunches today at Trader Joe’s for $1.29 for a bunch of 10. Then I saw this post and had to laugh. We all yearn for Spring:)

  • Beautiful daffodil photos! They really capture the essence of early spring and serve as a reminder that winter is almost over. Thanks for sharing!

  • As a Hoosier transplant to Houston, it is daffodils that make me realize how much I miss Spring’s unfolding in the Midwest.
    Note: If you choose your varieties carefully, you can have daffodils from late February til May.

  • ah. beautiful story and subject. It inspired me to go and find an old jam jar and get some daffodils for my studio too. They definitely bring a little bit of sunshine inside even in this cold northern spring. Probably one of my favourite flowers ever! thank you.

  • oh my gosh- this is the best article on daffodils! SO informative and beautiful. Thank you! I am now ready for the sun to shine down and bring my bulbs up!

  • All those beautiful daffodil varieties make me homesick for my native England. Here in Hawaii we have orchids and many other gorgeous flowers, but still miss my daffodils – – Thank you so much!