Wednesday, March 25, 2009

ABC Wednesday: J

Today is Wednesday, which means we have reached the letter J, perfect for a spring bouquet of . . .


Jonquils, Daffodils, Narcissus . . . no matter what you call them, to me they represent the beginning of spring. No other spring blossom makes me as joyous and jubilant as the daffodil. It is a sign that spring has finally arrived. And yes, these first two photos were taken in my garden just this morning.

My mother always called these flowers jonquils, while I refer to all of them as daffodils. Both of these belong to the genus Narcissus, but while narcissus and daffodils are somewhat interchangeable names, the jonquil is actually a specific type, Narcissus jonquilla. Jonquils have very narrow, almost cylindrical stems with 1-5 flowers per stem, while other daffodils have flat leaves. They are also more fragrant than other daffodils.

Although daffodils propagate by seed, the seeds take 5-7 years to bloom, so most gardeners plant bulbs instead. "Commercial growers in Holland propagate daffodils by tissue culture, slicing bulbs into as many as 64 thin slices, each of which then grows into a bulblet in about 10 weeks. Daffodil fanciers create hybrids and new cultivars by dusting pollen from one plant onto the pistil of another, and then harvesting the seeds." ( According to this article, daffodils may be divided every two years, but I prefer to let them grow as much as possible, dividing them less often.

". . .I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils:
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze. "

--William Wordsworth

Poets have sung the praises of daffodils, and they have been a part of history since ancient times. The name Narcissus comes from the Greek myth about a young man who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool and drowned. The sympathetic gods turned him into a flower for eternity. In Roman times, Roman soldiers supposedly carried daffodils with them to eat "if they should be mortally wounded in battle, in order to hasten their journey to the underworld." ( And medieval Arabs used the juice of the wild daffodil as a cure for baldness.

Whether the daffodil has any supernatural or medicinal properties or not, I simply enjoy them for their cheery faces when spring begins. Until this year, I have had only the typical yellow varieties of daffodils, but last fall I planted a few more of different varieties including double-ruffled and white ones with pink centers like those pictured below. I can't wait for them all to bloom to see some new faces in the garden.

photo from Dutch

According to Wikipedia, the name jonquil is often used in the southeastern United States to refer to all daffodils/narcissus, and in the South they may also be referred to as buttercups. Whatever you choose to call them, to paraphrase old Will, " . . . what's in a name? That which we call the jonquil would still smell as sweet."

"He that has two cakes of bread, let him sell one of them for some flowers of the Narcissus, for bread is food for the body, but Narcissus is food of the soul."


For more ABC posts, click here.


  1. Verily, your jonquils are indeed joyous and jubilant, just like you!! Personally, I would have gone with Junk food, but, fair enough, I'm not playing along! :)

  2. What a fascinating history, and loved the pink and white photo! Great post x

  3. They are opened in my garden, taking in the sun (and the sleet).

  4. I just love the word jonquil far, far better than daffodil or narcissus.
    The pink & white one is very unusual.
    Lovely photos of lovely flowers.

  5. Wonderful post on one of my favorite bulbs. Down here for sure everyone calls daffodils 'butter cups'. Being from the north, this so confuses me as we know the buttercup flower is quite a bit different from daffodils. I've adjusted now though. I like the info on warriors carrying them into battle to hasten their trip. These would do it. I hope your new ones bloom in a rainbow of colors this year and each year.

  6. I don't have any of the pink ones but would love to add some. I never really understood the story of Narcissus. Those ancient myths aren't exactly logical;)

    Mine are only up about 3 or 4 inches.

  7. When I was growing up and would tell anyone who asked that my birthstone was aquamarine and the flower Jonquil, no one knew what a Jonquil was!

  8. Hi Rose, what a delightful post, and educational too. Those pink cupped daffs will be a joy. Spring has surely sprung for you if the daffodils are blooming. My neighbors call them buttercups. I had never heard that before, but they are native Tennesseans and have been around for a while. My mother called them all jonquils too.

  9. Rose, a lovely post ....such a rich history these little and big flowers have! There's a daffodil for everyone and every taste! I do like your pink ones...and can't wait to see how they look in your garden...Only the older gardeners in Nashville seem to call them buttercups...They have fun names for lots of plants! Have a sweet day and please let us know when the pink daffs bloom!

  10. I've never seen pink ones! I love the smell of jonquils.

  11. Dear Rose.....a lovely history on the beautiful daffodil....I think everyone loves them, especially after a long dreary winter. They are so bright and cheerful.

    I planted the pink and white daffs the previous autumn. I was extremely pleased with them....although mine were a much paler pink than I expected. I will look forward to seeing yours......

  12. Beautiful photos of beautiful yellow jonquils...a great J...I enjoyed the info also...

  13. I love the pink ones! Thank you for the history of a fascinating group of flowers.

  14. Jumpin' Jehosaphat, these jonquils are joyous.

  15. Wow .. I've never seen pink ones before! How pretty!

    On behalf of the team, thanks for taking part in ABC Wednesday! :)

  16. For some reason I never think of Jonquil for J - and it's such a beautiful flower!

  17. I have a little of that 'soul food' in the garden. I always wish I had more varieties every spring.

    I love the word jonquil. You don't hear it used any more. It is an old fashioned sounding word. It would be a good name for a cat.

  18. So that's how bulbs are propagated! I never knew. Always wondered - where does the bulb come from? How do you "make" a bulb? Interesting.

    I too love daffodils - my favourite springtime flower.
    Hope your pink and white ones do well. I planted some a couple of seasons ago and they look nice, although not as joyous, more fragile than the yellow ones. But, of course, they're still hiding under snow in our front yard. But - the weather is warming up!

  19. Monica, The first J word that came to mind was juxtaposition, but I couldn't figure out how to do that and make it garden-related:) Junk food sounds pretty good, too.

    Ramblings, Thank you; I enjoyed your post, too, but unfortunately couldn't leave a comment--something with my computer settings. I really need a live-in computer tech!

    Spacedlaw, the sun sounds good, but sleet definitely not!

    Maggie May, Thanks; I'm anxious to see the pink ones come up this year.

    Tina, I wasn't sure Wikipedia had that right! I always thought buttercups were a completely different flower.

    Marnie, I'm trying to remember but I think Narcissus was cursed by Hera--the gods were always messing up human lives:) This is really early for my daffodils.

    Laura, That's funny. I always wondered why my Mom called them jonquils; she's not from the South, so perhaps it's just an old-fashioned word.

    Frances, I know my daffs weren't blooming this early last year--must be all the warm weather we have had lately. Of course, now there's snow in the forecast:)

    Gail, It's no wonder why I'm confused by some flower names, when people call them by different names in different places. The new ones are far from budding yet, but I can't wait to see them either.

    Liz, I should have pink ones and white ones, if they all come up. Glad you liked the photo of Tarzan; he's the clown cat around here.

  20. Cheryl, Daffodils have always been one of my favorite flowers, maybe because they are so early and so much showier than some other spring bulbs. I think daffodils look better as they age, so my new ones may not be quite as good-looking as the photo.

    Carol, Thanks; I learned something new, too. I had no idea daffs started from seeds, for instance!

    Granny Smith, I didn't even know there were pink daffodils until a couple years ago:)

    Tumblewords, You always have a way with words:)

    Jay, Thanks for helping to host ABC Wednesday! It's always fun trying to think of a word or two to fit.

    Dragonstar, I always thought jonquils were something else...well, technically they are a little different.

    Lisa, I'll have to remember that the next time we get a cat. I didn't name any of the cats we have now, which is why we have a Tarzan:) Seeing all the different varieties of daffs on blogs last spring is what enticed me to plant some different ones this year.

    Wendy, I never knew either! I just assumed you divided the bulbs after so many years and that was the only way to get more. My new daffs are not even close to budding yet, so we'll see how they do. We might get snow next week--ugh!

  21. Your jaunty jonquils are the jewels of spring. Informative happy post, Rose :0)

  22. Hurrah the daffodils have arrived for you at last Rose :)

    Naturally, they had to shouted from the rooftops for your ABC post!

    I had my first daffodil bulb catalogue through the post yesterday - 5 months earlier than usual. At first I thought that was just silly, but on second thoughts, how canny because what are we drooling over, photographing and posting on our blogs at the moment? Why yes, daffodils!

  23. Thank you for the information about the narcissus. The way the bulb breeders cultivated the bulbs was unknown to me. Thanks also for your comment on my blog. I answered your questions there, for anybody to see. I also mentioned the title of a book worth while reading.

  24. Food for the soul indeed! I love them.

    Please send your cream and lilac coloured cat! Not to scare my birds, but so that I can hug him (he may not like it!) beacuse he looks just like my old cat, and I loved him very much!


  25. Just my crocus has come daffodils your J!he

  26. Jonquils! That's a unique name and it's great to read about it - new info. Thank you, Rose!

  27. I call them Buttercups or Daffy's. I could call them cupcakes as they are so yummy to look at :-)

  28. I would say they are definitely jolly, jubilant and joyous! A true sign of spring indeed.

  29. The jonquils are thru blooming here. I use to cut big bouquets and bring them into the house. They can brighten up any area and I liked the smell.

  30. Joey, thanks for getting into the spirit of things!

    VP, This has to be the earliest I've had daffodils blooming that I can remember! I haven't gotten any catalogs for bulbs yet, but you're absolutely right. I've been drooling over different daffodils on other posts--the perfect time to order some while I remember what I want.

    Reader Wil, I didn't know this about the breeding of different cultivars either; I thought it was interesting. Thanks for answering my questions and the book recommendation.

    Suburbia, Do you mean Tarzan, the orange tabby? Or Toby, the white Himalayan? Tarzan loves attention; you could hug him all you want, and he'd also take care of part of your bird problem:)

    Neva, The daffodils were a surprise; most of the yellow ones have opened in just the past day.

    Chandramouli, I think jonquils may be an old-fashioned name, but it is a lovely one, isn't it?

    Skeeter, Happy Birthday! I tend to pick out flowers that have food-related names. That's why I've grown to love heucheras--creme brulee, tirasmisu, etc.:)

    Racquel, Jolly is another J word I forgot!

    Susie, I have a hard time cutting any for indoors--I just love seeing their cheery faces outside.

  31. Hi Rose,

    What a fun letter J you chose! My mom was a South Side Chicago gal and she also called the smaller all-yellow daffodils Jonquils, especially if they had more than one flower on a stalk.
    But when I grew the white ones with peachy-pink cups she called them daffodils.

    Hope yours do well - the pink is relative rather than absolute, but most are at least peach or apricot. Maybe 'Accent' and 'Filly' were two of my favorites.

    Happy Wednesday!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  32. Thanks and I did have a Happy Day as the Saint came home with a Redbud Tree! I was so surprised to see it and not expecting that wonderful treat. I cant wait until i turn 29 again next year. :-) I just purchased a plant due to the name margarita! lol, I could not resist that one as I love a good sip on Saturday night after a hard days play in the yard...

  33. Fascinating post Rose! Thank you for this well-researched post.

    My grandma called them jonquils - hadn't thought about that in the longest time.

    By any name they're still as sweet, but I must admit I'm still partial to calling them jonquils.

  34. This comment has been removed by the author.

  35. What joyful jonquils! I agree that they mean spring. The English call them daffs. I like how you blended history, poetry, gardening and photos.

  36. I like the pinks too. I'll have to try and find some of those!

  37. I'll have to pay more attention to mine. I think I have one that has more than one flower on a stem. Your flowers sure are pretty!

  38. Annie, It's interesting how many of our mothers called them jonquils. I'm anxious to see how the new pink and white ones turn out.

    Skeeter, That was a great birthday gift--redbuds are one of my favorites. It's hard to pass up a plant with an enticing name like that:)

    Linda, It really doesn't matter what they're called, does it? I love to see them in the spring.

    Sarah, When I started thinking about it, I realized there are several flower names that go back to ancient Greek myths--the hyacinth and anemone are two others I can think of right now.

    Robin, the pinks were added after seeing them on blogs last spring!

    Sue, Since I didn't keep labels for my first daffodils, I don't know either if I have any true jonquils.

  39. Buy bamboo plants and bamboo plant gifts from our premier bamboo nursery in Florida.

    Offering one of a kind original bamboo gift arrangements & huge landscape starters. Always shipping the largest, healthiest bamboo plants anywhere!

    Ask our customers Buy bamboo plants at wholesale pricing direct from the grower! Call us now 954-234-1370
    954-208-0512 (FAX) for a free consultation! Open 7 Days a week

    Green Thumb Palms is Florida’s premier bamboo plant authority. We sell & ship many types of bamboo plants and offer the best

    customer service, product knowledge, and quality product. Next day UPS delivery of tropical clumping bamboo plants in Florida if ordered before noon. Call us now to have a friendly and

    relaxed conversation about bamboo. Thank you to all of our customers for their support and repeat business!


Thanks for stopping by. I love to hear from you, so please leave a comment. I'll try to reply here, but I'll definitely return the visit.