Spring is sprung (well, nearly!)
Daffodils, the cheerful heralds of spring, guaranteed to drive away the winter gloom, have yet to emerge en masse over here this year. Disappointed visitors to Wordsworth’s Lake District, where spring daffodils are almost a tourist industry in their own right, have been faced by a host of unopened blooms. Apparently, this is the latest that daffodils have bloomed in over thirty years; although we are assured that Easter should give us some magnificent, albeit late, displays. I hope so, as it never really feels like spring proper until the daffs are out.
So what is my obsession with daffodils? Well, maybe it is because I am half-Welsh.
The daffodil, along with the leek, has been adopted as the National emblem of Wales and, on St David’s Day (01 March), it has become tradition to wear a daffodil in one’s buttonhole or, at the very least, to display a bunch of vibrant, cut daffodils in a vase. This year, however, the bunch I gave to my mother looked decidedly meagre and not at all resplendent.
There have been many discussions as to which is the real Welsh emblem- daffodil or leek? The use of the leek as an emblem can be traced as far back as 1536, but possibly some confusion arose because the Welsh word for leek is Cenhinen and for daffodil Cenhinen Bedr (Peter’s leek).
It is claimed that the English prefer the daffodil because the leek has associations with the defeat of the Saxons (St David advised the Britons to wear leeks in their caps in the battle with the Saxons so as to distinguish friend from foe). By the 19th century, it was certainly gaining in popularity and its endorsement by the Prime Minister, Lloyd George, who chose the daffodil to symbolise Wales at the Investiture of the Prince of Wales in 1911, sealed its fate.
Yet, although a relative newcomer as an emblem , ironically the wild daffodil in Wales pre-dates the leek, which was introduced by the Romans, and in some locations it goes back to the ice age. Whatever, one’s view, however, it is generally agreed that the daffodil makes for a more attractive buttonhole.
So, is my fondness for the daffodil a patriotic throwback? Probably not. I just love their gaudy, brazen brightness which drives away the bleakness of winter and, as the sunshine slowly coaxes out the flower heads, I am holding my breath in anticipation.
Author of 'The Path of Innocence'