14 March 2015

HERITAGE NARCISSUS 'Van Sion'

"SPRING IS NATURE'S WAY OF SAYING
 LET'S PARTY!"
The great Robin Williams, American comedian & actor.
Photograph thanks to Elsa, 

a life-long 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 the offshore breeze. There will not be any Narcissus seeds available at the Gatehouse but the double Narcissus 'Van Sion' has been sticking it out 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 around 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 suspicion on the correct name for this variety.
      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 in the above photo, but the next two generations of Griswolds operated the farm after him. Their first farm house burned to the ground in 1911, but the large hay barn is extant and the daffodils were happy to stay on.
      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 Griswolds left behind at Griswold.
Gift of heritage Narcissus 'Van Sion'
grown on the site of the old Griswold home place.
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 Islander's community building, started out life as a Garden Club, with membership––I like this––in the Royal Horticultural Society, England.