14 March 2015


The great Robin Williams, American comedian & actor.
Photograph thanks to Elsa,
a childhood resident of the old Griswold home place,
12 March 2015.
The Skagit Valley growers are keen to host festivals to celebrate their acres of flowering spring bulbs; please join me in celebrating these special 'survivor' daffodils, now dancing in our offshore breeze. There will not be any Narcissus seeds available at the Gatehouse but the double Narcissus 'Van Sion' has been happy here from early settlement days, naturalizing on two former homesteads on Shaw Island. Their long history catches my attention.
      I may be accused of using the term 'heritage' rather loosely for some of the specimens listed in previous plant posts, but this bulb of unknown origin is recorded as first flowering in 1620 in London. Parkinson listed it in his Paradisus. The highly regarded daffodil expert, Englishman E. A. Bowles writes in his 1934 Handbook of Narcissus, that his bulbs were sent as a gift from a wild patch growing in northern Greece. 
      The N. 'Van Sion' is well described in journals as heritage for her survival through the centuries, in varying climatic conditions without special nurturing; usually, it is this lush, double daffodil found at early abandoned homesteads, long after the residents have moved on. Often the flowers are tinged with green; there are other double daffodils, but this is the one with a pedigree.
      The two known places where 'Van Sion' is found naturalized in the thick, lush grass of Shaw are growing on former working farms, recorded in federal documents as being settled in the 1880s. I sent photographs to a professional to verify my guess on the correct name.  
      When Jeremiah Griswold filed Shaw Island homestead papers with the federal government, he listed 1882 as his first personal settlement. We don't know if he planted these flowers, but the next two generations of Griswolds also operated the farm. Their first farm house burned to the ground in 1911, but the large extant hay barn and the daffodils were happy to stay on.
      For this writer, these are enough reasons to classify this flower growing on Shaw Island, as one of our true heritage plants.
      Here is a published piece from the local Journal newspaper in 1974: 

"It might be called a town that never was; hardly any reason for it to be called anything. But there it is––on most maps––Griswold; on some maps, the only name on Shaw Island. Signs of a town are just missing." 

     And there it is, a blend of our horticulture and our history; it is a lovely 'pot of gold' the Griswold family left behind at Griswold.
Gift of cut Narcissus 'Van Sion'
grown on the site of the old Griswold home.
Debbie Dean porcelain pots.
March 2015.
      I mentioned a pedigree; she did earn an Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society. 
     Shaw Island Women's Club, the gals that spearheaded the early fundraising for building of the Shaw Island Community Building, started out life as a Garden Club, with membership––I like this––in the Royal Horticultural Society, England.