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Deserted Daffodils

Two packs of daffodils from Trader Joe's in the back of my car
Daffodils from Trader Joe’s heading home 8 months ago (early April)
A few dozen daffodil bulbs recently freed from hard-packed, dry dirt
A few dozen daffodil bulbs recently freed from hard-packed, dry dirt. They’d been neglected for half a year.

Nature just keeps on surprising me with plants that won’t die (and somehow stay hidden in the meanwhile). For example, some forget-me-nots that refuse to be forgotten and have sprung from otherwise dooming conditions. And, surprisingly, daffodils.

Months ago – though it feels like downright years at this point – my wife and I had picked up some flowers for the house from Trader Joe’s. They were simple yellow daffodils, blooming brightly in April. Maybe a dwarf variety, if I remember right (I’ll have to try to find the original tag). They lasted a few weeks indoors before they really began to droop. Then, we forgot to water them for a few days past when they wanted it. They had a rough time after that. A few flowers would die day by day, until after a week and a half they were all dead. Eventually even the green leaves, sticking so hopefully up out of the planters, fell too.

I had tried to save the flowers a few different ways. At first, I kept assuming poor watering was to blame. Then, lack of light. Even after moving them outdoors, death was inevitable. At that point, I was convinced that they’d simply been packed too close for display purposes and had no chance of actually surviving for any length of time.

A few months later…

Planters from Trader Joe's that once held dozens of daffodils.
Planters from Trader Joe’s that once held dozens of daffodils. Once the leaves all died, I stuck them in a corner of the balcony.

I left the planters outside after the flowers and leaves all died. Eventually, I stuck them behind a few other pots and more or less forgot about them for a few months. Then, in the course of a spring cleaning and rearranging the balcony plants, I found them again. I made absolute and certain plans to plant all sorts of things in the cute planters, and dumped all the dirt into another bag. I don’t know why, but I kept that bag. 

I never ended up using the planters between then and now. I still have plans for them – plans that recently changed.

A pleasant surprise

Dirt from a few daffodil planters. The bulbs were not actually dead, despite being left outdoors.
Dirt from a few daffodil planters. The bulbs were not actually dead, despite being left outdoors.

We’ve had three or four spring cleanings this year, after spending so much more time at home and generally being disgusted with ourselves. In getting the apartment cleaned up this last time, I finally opened up this bag of dirt, intent on getting rid of it.

Until: I poked the dirt. I don’t know why I wanted to pick up one of the hard, dry clumps and squeeze it to dust. Only thing is, it started breaking in an unusual way. Inside it, I found a few bulbs clustered together at the base, looking like a few fresh cloves of garlic. They were surprisingly well-preserved.

A mad rush

A daffodil bulb with one head removed to test whether it is alive
A daffodil with one clove removed. Like a Monty Python character – “I’m not dead yet.

I had full faith that the bulbs would have rotted or desiccated to shells by now. I decided they must have been dry if anything, and plucked one of the cloves off of the main bunch. I heard the clear and wet crunch of living plant matter tearing apart. They were moist inside. Looking closer, I saw a ring of small tendons that had been connecting the bulb to the base. 

It was alive.

In my excitement, I started crumbling more and more dirt as quickly as I could, desperate to save the little bulbs from another winter. I found more than a few with tender green and yellow tips poking out, and decided to save as many as I could.

Sudden flowers

A daffodil bulb, neglected for half a year, shows signs of life during winter
A daffodil bulb, neglected for half a year, shows signs of life during winter.

After all that, I’ve got dozens of bulbs set aside in another bag. I’m getting them acclimated for a day or two to the temperate before I plant them. 

They’ve been out in a bag, subject to hard sun, temperatures in all degrees, pests, and noises at odd hours. By all accounts, I didn’t expect anything to survive it. 

These calm little flowers did. 

Now I shall have to make sure to raise these daffodils right, after they survived that first mistreatment. I’m so excited!

9 replies »

  1. Your experience reminds me of overwintering some tulips last year. When I checked them in the barn in April, there were white branches sticking up instead of green. I couldn’t figure out what to do with these albino plants so I put them outside and to my amazement they greened up and had lovely blooms. Good luck with your daffys. 🙂

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