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Give me the real thing for the real spring

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Hallelujah! That's the word. Definitely. Here we are at daffodil time again. Our own clumpy patch of these prolific and splendid little yellow trumpeters, 10 paces or so from the back door, is as bright and charming as it has ever been. Actually, I fancy it's better.

One spring is never exactly like another, though the fact that it returns so reliably and never disappoints is one of its great assets. These small generous flowers, with their contrast of lemon yellow and rich buttery yellow, are made luminous as they filter clarifying sunlight. They epitomize spring's arrival perfectly. Add to this their gray-green spear leaves - narrow and elegant - and the delightful way in which each flower head points in a slightly different direction from the others. Observe their combination of nodding self-effacement and unashamed self-declaration. I defy even the most cynical and world-weary to overlook them.

All sorts of plants, like daffodils, grow from bulbs, but spring-flowering bulbs are the most intrepid, determined, and, I think, rewarding ones. Bulbs display an astonishing capacity to survive, multiply, and show up with predictable aplomb when the world starts to warm up a bit. You can ignore and neglect them as much as you like while they lie dormant through summer, autumn, and winter, but up they push once more and graciously reassure us that continuance is a tremendously potent thing.

These daffodils of ours are the wild, native daffodils of ancient provenance, not those derivations hybridized in new variations every year - leggy things best adapted to be cut flowers but frequently grown as garden plants. Such man-manipulated daffodils - billions are planted by municipal authorities all over Britain - always look planted or even slightly unreal. These small wild ones, however, even when they are (like ours) in gardens, look very satisfyingly as though they have planted themselves.


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