"Pay attention to the world." -- Susan Sontag
Twelve Dozen Daffodils (1 of 8)

Twelve Dozen Daffodils (1 of 8)

From Daffodil: The Remarkable Story of the World’s Most Popular Spring Flower by Noel Kingsbury:

“Daffodils are true perennials. Some of the plants sold as perennials (as herbaceous or bulbous) have, in truth, a limited lifespan. Among bulbs, tulips and lilies are a case in point. In ideal conditions, they may live for quite a few years, but they do not go on forever and, crucially, have a limited ability to form clumps. Daffodils are not only immensely long-lived but continually clone themselves to form ever-expanding clumps. They are the bulb equivalent of those robust border perennials like hardy geraniums or goldenrod, whose clumps just keep on getting bigger and bigger….

“‘Daffodil’ in most English usages is used to refer to the classic florist and garden daffodil pattern: single flowers with a big trumpet-like cup, usually yellow. Anything else tends to get called ‘narcissus.’ There is no rationale behind this, and it makes life simpler if all members of the botanical genus
Narcissus get called the same — daffodil. ‘Narcissus’ is derived from the Greek narco (‘becoming numb’), the same root as the word ‘narcotic.’ Here then is a hint of one of the few uses to which daffodils were put in traditional herbal medicine. [John] Gerard refers to the classical Greek writer Sophocles calling them ‘the garland of the great infernall goddes, bicause they that are diparted and dulled with death, should woorthily be crowned with a dulling flower.’ The Furies, vengeful spirits of the underworld in Greek mythology, wore daffodils in their tangled hair and used them to stupefy their victims.”

From Daffodil: The Biography of a Flower by Helen O’Neill:

“Daffodils have been part of my life for as long as I can remember. Born in Hampshire’s New Forest my roots lie deep in the rich soil of southern England, yet my childhood was one of perpetual motion as my family moved from one home to another, prompted by advances in my father’s career.

“Across my ever-changing world daffodils became a constant. As each winter receded they appeared anew, a radiant signal that the bleakest English season was done with and the New Year truly on its way. By the time I hit my teens my family’s travelling halted, and we settled in the countryside a few miles from a Thames Valley village. My new home was surrounded by towering woodland dissected by pathways that had been trod for centuries, dappled meadows carpeted all-too-briefly with bluebells — and each spring what felt like acres of drifting daffodils….

“As one daffodil variety melted away another materialised to take its place, a rhythmic dance through the spring chill that lasted, it seemed to my young mind, for ages. The blossoms were beautiful, injecting a lifeblood of colour into the drained winter landscape and we took them for granted. After all, they were simply daffodils.”


We’re going to spend the month of April looking at photos of daffodils. How great is that?

I was originally planning to title this post series “A Month of Daffodils” — then realized I had EXACTLY 144 images processed up and ready to share, hence the current title: “Twelve Dozen Daffodils.” I like catchy titles, often leaning towards alliteration whenever I can — but “twelve dozen” seems compelling enough, especially if you imagine someone dropping 144 daffodils on your front porch, split into bunches every few days for a month.

I took the photos during several recent trips to Oakland Cemetery’s Gardens, and many of them were taken using a neutral density filter as I described previously in Early Spring Hellebores (1 of 2). The first five and next three images below show how that filter enables me to play with lighting and highlights: in the first five, the scene is dark overall but the flowers take on a distinct glow; and in the next three, the filter picks up similarly glowful highlighting on the green leaves in the background. The filter seems especially good at capturing highlights while accentuating the saturation of yellows, oranges, and greens, though it will be interesting to see — as the reds, purples, and blues of flowers like irises start appearing — what fun can be had with other colors.

Once upon a time a couple of years ago, I decided that I would try to consistently create eight blog posts a month. Why eight, you ask? Well, my original thinking on that was pretty simple: less than eight was not enough, but more than eight was too many. With the exception of December and my Days-to-Christmas posts, I’ve stuck with that number every month since June 2022, because it gives me time to take and post-process the photos, but more importantly gives me time to do some research on the plants I’m photographing. While I could surely post a couple of wordless photos a day and garner tons more blog traffic, just posting photos (not that there’s anything wrong with that) isn’t compelling enough to me, and I get a lot of pleasure out of the puzzling and stewing about plant histories and botany that I take on between photo-shoots.

With that in mind, we’re going to work through a couple of books about daffodils along with these posts…

Daffodil: Biography of a Flower by Helen O’Neill
Daffodil: The Remarkable Story of the World’s Most Popular Spring Flower by Noel Kingsbury

… and write some to-be-determined somethings about what we learn. I’ve had the second book for a while, and just bought the first one, and stuck a few sample quotes from each up-top. Personally I’d like to read one called “Daffodil: The Autobiography of a Flower” — but so far haven’t found such a book. Nobody knows why.

Both books are good examples of ethnobotany — the study of relationships between human cultures and plants — with Kingsbury’s book (which I’ve quoted from before) taking a more scientific approach than O’Neill’s, which focuses more on the the daffodil’s cultural history. Well, at least that’s what ClaudeAI told me; I wouldn’t know yet because I haven’t done the reading, but — eeks! — I’ll need to do it soon!

Thanks for taking a look!


  1. Oh Daffodils!!! They are one of my favorites. Thank you for sharing. I feel like I have learned things about the Daffodil I did not know. I want to read the two books you mentioned. To me, flowers are such an amazing beautiful wonder. I love your pictures.

    1. Dale

      Thank you! Flowers ARE amazing! I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of photographing and learning about them.

      Both books are very good; I think I might like O’Neill’s a little better because of her writing style, and she weaves in her own personal stories and observations. But you can learn a lot about daffodils from either one, for sure.

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