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.
- William Wordsworth, 1804
March is here—and he brings with him the month's birth flower, the Daffodil.
March is derived from the name "Martius," the first month of the Ancient Roman calendar. Martius was named after Mars, the hot-blooded God of War.
Daffodils are a member of the large Narcissus family which also includes paperwhites, jonquils and a very wide range of narcissi. While there are numerous natural varieties, they have been vigorously cross-bred by humans, resulting in countless hybrid cultivars. Daffodils grow from bulbs, from which the flowers emerge—a trumpet-like "corona" surrounded by six petals—usually in the Spring. They are believed to have originated some 25 - 30 million years ago in Southwestern Europe: Spain, Portugal, Southern France, Italy and along the Mediterranean Sea. Daffodils were brought to the Middle East from where Arab traders took them onwards to Asia. They became popular in Europe in the 1600's and remain so to this day. For a few hundred years, the Netherlands has been the center of commercial daffodil production along with many other flowering bulbs (like tulips, crocuses and hyacinths).
Ancient societies have used daffodils—botanically, medicinally and aesthetically. Egyptian tombs have been discovered painted with daffodils. Ancient Greeks tell the story of Narcissus, the young man who was so beautiful that he rejected the amorous advances of others in order to spend his days contemplating his own reflection in a pond. When he died, the narcissus flower grew in his place—forever gazing downwards into the water. The Ancient Roman poet, Virgil, tell us that the narcissus cup holds the tears of Narcissus. And the flowers are very popular in England, where William Wordsworth wrote his famous poem (shown above) in 1804.
Daffodil bulbs (and, to a lesser extent, the leaves) are poisonous. Their narcotic effect has been used pharmaceutically in traditional medicines. Though beware! Take too much and one invites abdominal distress, convulsions, paralysis and, sometimes, death. Even prolonged handling of the bulbs or cut flowers can cause a scaly dermatitis in some people.
The vase above captures the sunny beauty of a yellow Spring daffodil. It was made int the Art Deco Thirties by Stangl in Flemington, New Jersey. While it is not decorated with daffodils, it would easily help you to decorate with daffodils. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.
Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well! Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).
We also can be found in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com).
Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only). 917-446-4248