Tuesday, 9 December 2014
In an old wooden cold frame, fashioned by my father many years ago, we store the spent daffodil bulbs over the summer each year , having lifted them from the long flower beds of the front garden late in the spring after flowering, let them dry in the sun, and removed the yellowed foliage. Each autumn we add new, fresh bulbs to the colony before planting; every few years we replenish the entire stock. The task of planting the bulbs, later lifting them and setting them out to dry falls largely to myself, in my father's absence.
It happens one autumn, that we have too many to plant, and so the remainder are left in the cold frame at the bottom of the garden throughout the season. At the close of flowering time, when the planted bulbs have been lifted, dried, divested of their faded greenery and are ready for storage, we open the cold frame to discover that the surplus bulbs therein have flowered also. Fragile, dessicated blooms append each shrivelled, papery bulb, a tangle of pale gold and honey, exquisitely beautiful. My mother and I are profoundly moved by the sight. My mother whispers apologies; we are each conscious of guilt, and sadness for our unwitting negligence, for the plants unfailing and faithful response to the turning of the year, unwitnessed, unsung.
I cut the frail blooms from the shrunken bulbs, captivated by their beauty, and place them carefully in paper bags, anxious to preserve them, somehow to chronicle their effort, their ultimate, valiant expenditure.