Fans of cheery daffodils, a sign of spring, will gather this weekend

Cultivated following


Cherry blossoms get all the glory in early April, but fresh daffodils are growing everywhere in public parks and private gardens, even brightening high-speed landscapes like Interstate 97 and Route 2.

Daffodils are the first kiss of spring, announcing its arrival, and a supreme equalizer in waking up winter-weary eyes. They clear the way like foot soldiers for more formal, showy tulips that follow, but they have their own following.

"They're like a promise, my favorite," says Melinda Carrera, 19, a freshman at St. John's College, gazing at a bunch outside Randall Hall in the early evening. "Nothing compares to their tall star-striped yellowness. That's a hopeful color."

English bard William Wordsworth wrote about his heart dancing with the daffodils 200 years ago. The bright, slightly fragrant flower - also seen in creamy white and delicate pink shades - also wins plaudits from the State Highway Administration and those who pass the perennials planted in State Circle and around the capital city.

"It's one of the first things you see when everything else is brown," said Charlie Adams, the SHA director of environmental design. "It brings a smile to people's faces and takes the edge off a commute."

Last year, Adams added, the state agency funded the planting of 377,000 daffodil bulbs to beautify Maryland's major roadways, at a cost of $185,000. In the past decade, he said, about 2.6 million daffodils have been planted to spruce up state highways, particularly the sturdy King Alfred variety, which he described as an "old, standard working-man's variety.

"We don't plant [many] tulips," the SHA official added, noting the fragile wineglass blooms need more cultivation.

Wordsworth's spirit has a soul mate in Josie Lines, 85, a fierce competitor at the 26th annual daffodil show at Historic London Town House and Gardens in Edgewater. The event opens today and continues through tomorrow. Once an international show competitor, Lines says she never grows tired of the 150 daffodil varieties she calls "my cultivars." She brings the best from her patch to present to judges who know the differences between her camelots, chloes and ceylons. Also on her arranging table are miniature "itty bitty" April tears daffodils and the twisted petals of a historic 1869 variety.

All the work for a few weeks of lighting up the outdoors is well worth it, Lines said. She doesn't think their loveliness vanishes too quickly because the beginning to the end of their season is several weeks, she said.

Her daughter-in-law, Ann Lines of La Plata, said the practical aspect of daffodils appeals to her. "Deer, moles and squirrels don't bother them," she said. "They're wonderfully carefree from that standpoint."

Jan Hardesty, spokeswoman for Annapolis Mayor Ellen O. Moyer, voiced a similar view: "Daffodils are definitely the bulb of choice for urban landscaping. They propagate, give squirrels heartburn and certainly lift souls and spirits."

The city has planted thousands of daffodil bulbs in recent years, she said.

The weekend show in Edgewater will focus on elegantly arranged cut daffodils, organized by the Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland, Inc. Elisabeth Williamson of Severna Park, club president and the show co-chair, said this year's "Four Seasons of Daffodils" show will have two main categories: horticulture and design.

Lines will enter her garden-grown daffodils in the horticulture part of the show, while Williams is entering the design contest with a contemporary sculptural piece, featuring three painted gourds, metalwork and a dozen daffodils to create a September-themed look.

The design daffodil entries - 48 in all - will be shown inside the London Town 18th century bayside "Publik House," with all 12 months represented.

Jill Breen, a show volunteer, said the scene brought back memories of Wales, her native country. "Every girl on March 1 wore a daffodil," she said, to greet spring with the national symbol.

The annual daffodil show will be held today from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Historic London Town House and Garden, 839 Londontown Road, Edgewater. Admission is $10 for adults, $6 for seniors and $4 for children.

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