This article appeared as "Gone Daffy" in our April 2012 issue.
With their starched petals, crisp trumpets, and dignified mien, daffodils have a military flair. But they’re also cheery team players that bloom for weeks and stick around for generations, outliving the gardeners who plant them.
In England, where the Royal Horticultural Society is the flower’s official registrar, daffodil worship reaches epic heights, especially with the spring RHS Daffodil Show. From all over Britain, says garden photographer and daffodil devotee Howard Sooley, “people travel with cardboard boxes carefully packed with cotton wool and daffodil blooms to show others of similar passion.” For the last five years, Sooley has captured the “curious and extraordinary” forms cooked up by these hybridizers, many of whom are amateurs. In halls as vast as aircraft hangars, he says, “rows of single-cut stems all face the same direction, like nature’s army of spring awaiting inspection against a dark-green hessian backcloth.”
Left: ‘Cool Flame’ is a midseason bloomer that reaches 14 to 16 inches in height and produces large white flowers with a sizable salmon-pink cup. (‘Accent’ has similar characteristics but is more widely available and more colorfast, says Brent Heath of brentandbeckysbulbs.com).