Longer Days, Shorter Daffodils
by M.L. Faunce
"This morning I had sun while reading the newspaper for the first time this winter and such a good feeling," my friend, Peggy, a lifelong Alaskan, exclaimed by e-mail. By March, even Alaskans start reclaiming their daylight by about five minutes a day.
For Alaskans like Peggy, the extra daylight in March "means a great new beginning," she says.
Up north, gardening season doesn't begin until well after Memorial Day, when there can still be snow on the ground and ice on the lake. So when the inner clock says Ôit's time to garden,' many Alaskans turn to their greenhouses to keep green thumbs in practice. "My tomato seedlings are straining toward the Ôreal' light,'" Peggy says. The same light that's now shining in her eyes in the morning.
Here in Bay country, we're noticing longer days too. Now, we can either leave for work in the daylight or get home before the sun sets.
My Alaska friend's enthusiasm got me looking around my garden to see which plants were heeding the call of all this extra daylight. My quince is blooming. Daylilies, in this mild winter, have kept their foliage full and green. Hyacinths are just emerging with color bordering on chartreuse. One sunny spot in my garden has tulips up several inches, while those in cold shade stay shy and sheltered beneath the mulch. Iris rhizomes are sending up wide-toothed leaves. But the daffodil is March's surprise.
A discovery in my own garden was reinforced as I scanned my neighborhood and walked toward the Bay. On a day winter returned, a cold wind from the north took my breath and pushed the water out several hundred yards into the Bay. Yet all along the waterfront, daffodil narcissus waved in the cold wind. Like the ones in my yard, this year, perhaps they should be called daffodil diminutive.
Everywhere I looked, hosts of foreshortened daffodils fluttered daring in the breeze. The closer to the Bay and cool water I got, the shorter the stalk, some only a few inches tall. Did the mild winter and late cold burst stunt their growth? Have the stately King Alfred variety so commonly grown here suddenly given up the throne to a little prince?
Since plants grow huge when Alaskan days grow long, I couldn't resist asking Peggy about her daffodils. "Oh, I never grow daffodils," she said, "they look so silly here when they come up in June and the rest of my garden is in full swing."
How are your daffodils sizing up this spring?