Signs of spring are starting to shine through. On the way to work today I passed lots of daffodils. Daffodils are my favourite flower! They are a sure sign of spring, a bright yellow beacon of life emerging from the (wet) ground. I love how they ‘spring’ up all over the place – at the side of the road, on roundabouts, outside your window. When people plant daffodils they provide pleasure year after year.
Daffodils have quite a history. They are more than just a sign of spring, they have other symbolism attached to them. Daffodils are officially known as by the name ‘Narcissus’ and native to Europe, North Africa and West Asia, traditionally appearing in woodlands. Narcissus is a figure from Greek mythology who drowned whilst gazing at his own reflection in water. It’s not known if the two are actually related but certainly in the West the daffodil is seen to symbolise vanity and egotism. In popular culture the two are often associated, for example in the Metamorphosis of Narcissus by Salvador Dali. The oil painting depicts Narcissus sitting in a pool, gazing down. Not far away there is a decaying stone figure which corresponds closely to him but is perceived quite differently; as a hand holding up a bulb or egg from which a daffodil is growing. Could a story of such gloom be related to a flower of such life?
In modern times, the daffodil is used as a symbol of Easter and iconic for Mother’s Day. It’s also the national flower of Wales, chosen because it is in bloom for St David’s Day on March 1st. From the sixteenth century, the daffodil was given fun synonyms such as ‘Daffadown Dilly’ and ‘Daffydowndilly’. Narcissus has had various uses from ancient times. Romans used narcissus ointment to create a fragrance called Narcissinum. Arabs used it in their perfumery, as well as to cure baldness. In India, the oil of narcissus, as well as fragrant oils of sandal, jasmine, and rose, is applied to body before prayer. In France it was used for treating epilepsy and hysteria. The scent of the oil is strong and rich, and is used in some famous perfumes although you probably wouldn’t have noticed.
Personally I think the best use for daffodils is to leave them be. Even with their dark mythology, I still see them as happy, playful flowers and a sure sign of the changing seasons. Their beautiful yellow hue brightens up the dullest of settings. They grow easily here in the UK so you can snip off your garden surplus and bring them into the house, carbon footprint free!
With Mother’s Day coming up, Marks and Spencer have the most beautiful bouquet of 80 sunny daffodils and 20 purple tulips, currently on offer for £25.
You can also check out my recent post for Fairtrade Fortnight on Ethical High Street where I look at Fairtrade cut flowers and why such certification is necessary in an industry we rarely consider past the beauty of the blooms. Fairtrade flowers are available from a number of places including Marks and Spencer and online at Arena Flowers who offer free delivery 7 days a week, perfect for Mother’s Day.
I’m currently writing about a different Fairtrade product each day for Fairtrade Fortnight, see them all at ethicalhighstreet.co.uk