Daffodil: The remarkable story of the world's most popular spring flower

Hardcover | September 24, 2013

byNoel KingsburyPhotographed byJo Whitworth

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There is no harbinger of spring like a field or garden filled with bright yellow daffodils. But the world of the daffodil is much more than just its place in the march of the seasons. It’s a plant whose history starts with the tombs of the Pharaohs, through pre-Darwin evolutionary theory and Cornwall’s burgeoning bulb business, and leads to the current explosion of varieties from plant breeders seeking new colors, fragrances, and forms.

Daffodil reveals a global plant infatuation that has led to more than 25,000 cultivars available in nearly every shade of yellow (and now pink, orange, and white). Noel Kingsbury tells the tale through an engaging narrative history and plant portraits that highlight more than 200 varieties. Jo Whitworth's revealing photography shows a side of the daffodil rarely seen. Plant lovers will relish the stories and gardeners will cherish the cultivation notes, plant descriptions, and recommendations.

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From the Publisher

There is no harbinger of spring like a field or garden filled with bright yellow daffodils. But the world of the daffodil is much more than just its place in the march of the seasons. It’s a plant whose history starts with the tombs of the Pharaohs, through pre-Darwin evolutionary theory and Cornwall’s burgeoning bulb business, and lea...

From the Jacket

Daffodils are the quintessential spring flower. Their arrival in our gardens, parks, and woodlands is a sure sign that winter is drawing to a close. 

Dr. Noel Kingsbury is a well-known designer, commentator, and writer on plants, gardens, landscape, and the environment. Kingsbury is interested in combining natives and nonnatives in ecological planting schemes, and he is a passionate advocate for sustainable plant combinations that require minimal intervention from the gardener. His ...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:220 pages, 9.31 × 7.38 × 0.81 inPublished:September 24, 2013Publisher:Timber PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1604693185

ISBN - 13:9781604693188

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Introduction: Daffodils and Their Place in Our Culture Daffodils are somehow the quintessential spring flower. The appearance of their distinctive yellow blooms is a sure sign that winter has either ended or is about to soon. Unlike the tulip, which appears to be dependent on us for its continued re-emergence in the garden, daffodils reappear faithfully every year; and not just in the garden but in places such as roadsides, churchyards, and parks where they have been planted, often decades ago—in some cases over a century ago. These plants are clearly great survivors, thriving even in places where they have obviously been accidentally dropped or discarded—the flowers frequently mark where someone emptied the back of their car of garden waste into a ditch or hedge, little thinking that the event and scene of their crime would be annually and flamboyantly marked for so many years to come.             There are around twenty-seven thousand unique cultivars of daffodil. Unlike other flowers—roses, tulips, orchids, whose numbers of deliberately bred varieties range across great swathes of the spectrum or show off an extravagant range of shapes—daffodils are remarkably alike. All single cultivars have the same basic shape—a cup (also called a corona) and petals (although botanists do not call them petals); even the doubles or the strange “split-corona” varieties easily betray their basic inheritance. Above all there is the colour, more or less every shade of yellow which can be imagined, but very little else: white of course, but then almost every flower has at least one white variant, some flashes of orange, but never very much, and that’s it; there are so-called pink varieties, but they are more of a tan-apricot. One of the fascinating things about daffodils is just how much play we can have with the same basic design and the same colour scheme, about how much breeders, the bulb trade, and we—the customers—keep on coming back for more, as if we can never leave this most successful design alone.             At the heart of this book is the idea of the daffodil as a metaphor for our relationship with nature, as being a cultivated plant, but one which is capable of also living its own life. Like cats, they feel only partly domesticated. The book is as much about the daffodil as cultural icon as it is about the daffodil as garden plant. Daffodils appear in paintings and in poetry, as emblems of spring and of nature. This cultural status is surely a large part of their appeal; we buy them as tight buds from florists as early as we can at the end of the winter not just because we know they will be pretty and yellow, but because Wordsworth and other poets wrote about them, and they appear endlessly reproduced as a sign of spring at every level of art from the museum-hung masterpiece to souvenir-shop kitsch. The daffodil cut-flower industry is a big one, and historically it was something of a pioneer in the craft and business of how to transfer the golden promise of spring several hundred miles, from the field to the vase on the table. The social history of this industry is part of this book too, as it has been an important driver in directing how daffodils have been bred and appreciated.  

Editorial Reviews

“A fascinating, up-beat book with floral sunshine on every page. One you will look at again and again.” —Gardens Illustrated   “A delightful book for almost any gardener, and a wonderful resource for designers who are looking for something different.” —Garden Design Online “The book, richly illustrated by the photographs of Jo Whitworth, is a thorough treatment of the reliable spring flower. Kingsbury delves into its history and the origins of its name, explores the follower’s symbolism and explains its life cycle, how it’s classified and even its chemical properties.” —Akron Beacon Journal “A recognized authority on the selection and management of ornamental perennials, Kingsbury relates the role of daffodils in legend and history. He emphasizes their great diversity and the divisions within these different forms. . . . Photographer Jo Whiteworth captures the glory of daffodils in individual portraits of plants, blended together in fields, hedges, and borders.” —Chicago Botanic Garden   “Here’s what there is to love: History, science, botany, yummy photos, explanation of the divisions, how daffodils moved across Britain, the U.S., New Zealand and Australia, shows and judging. . . . This is a charming, informative and beautiful book!” —All the Dirt on Gardening “What a fascinating book!” —Cold Climate Gardening   “Everything one needs to know about the species is covered. . . . With color photography by Jo Whitworth on every page, the book explains the daffodil’s early history. . . . and spread around the world.” —Desert Exposure