Getting Wilde in the Garden

March 21, 2022 (First Day of Spring!)

It’s time to get Wilde in the Garden again to talk about …plants, farming, agriculture, flowers and more.  Every couple of weeks, readers can look forward to some surprising and educational information and tips about growing various plants in an interview with Barbara Hamilton Bray Wilde, Director of the NJ Farmers Cooperative.  For anyone who has the chance to sit down with Ms. Wilde to talk about gardens, gardening, farming and agriculture, botany of all kinds, one quickly realizes that this is truly a passion made into a vocation.  She is wild about gardens.  Her face lights up and you quickly realize that Wilde is wild about gardening topics.

This time, we are getting Wilde about daffodils.

Here in Cape May County, we are in zone 7B!  It is the middle of March, Daffodil season, right on cue!  The bright yellow harbingers of spring, daffodils, are everywhere you look…that is, IF you take the time to see them.  There is a beautiful quote by artist Georgia O’Keefe, known for her paintings of enlarged flowers.  “Nobody sees a flower, really.  It is so small, we haven’t time.  And to see takes time - like to have a friend takes time.”  

Have you ever taken the time to really look at a daffodil? Today, we got Wilde in the Garden, to talk about the daffodil…what else were we going to talk about?  We were surrounded by them!

Daffodils are everywhere!  Is it fair to say that you are Wilde about daffodils?

I am!  Here at Willow Creek Winery and Farm, there are over 150,000 daffodils planted in large swaths, reminiscent of the yellow brick road.  We have so many blooming at once, they are awe inspiring right now.  Additionally, we planted an additional 11,000 daffodils at the front of the new location for the NJ Farmers Cooperative on Bayshore Road at LeGates.  I encourage anyone who loves daffodils to come see our blooms while they are here.  Don’t put it off, as they will not last forever.  Make sure you get some photos in front of them.  The sunlight -- at different times of the day --  is fun to play with when photographing them.

Daffodils are so delicate, yet hearty.  They’re wild.  You can even see daffodils growing on the dunes while walking along the Delaware Bay beaches, or alongside abandoned buildings, or springing up in old forgotten flowerbeds.  They just keep blooming!  

What else can you tell us about daffodils?

The name daffodil is a dutch derivation of “affo dyle” and that means “that which cometh early.”  Everyone already knows that they are one of the first signs of flora life that is a harbinger of springtime.  They even start to pop up when it’s technically still wintertime. They can still grow in low temperatures, they’re that hardy.  Daffodils are of the narcissius genus.  There is an old Greek myth about Echo and Narcissus.  You may be familiar with Narcissus:  he fell in love with his own image. (That’s where the term narcissist comes from.). Narcissus could not stop looking at himself in his reflection in the water, he was obsessed with it, so much so that he could not leave his own reflection and eventually died in that spot.  He was then reincarnated by the gods who pitied him, and came back to life as a daffodil.

If you want to plant daffodils in your own garden, their bulbs are to be planted in the fall, before the first frost.  You can be guaranteed that they will pop up in the month of March.  

Are there any health benefits to daffodils? 

Actually, no.  There was a time in ancient times, that the daffodil was believed to have healing and medicinal purposes, but we are wiser now, thankfully.  They are actually toxic to humans.  They’re pleasant to observe and photograph, and grow.  But they are not to be eaten…by humans or animals.  Additionally, if you wanted to create a lovely arrangement using daffodils, use daffodils only.  Their toxins can be released and shorten the life of other cut flowers they come in contact with.  A vase of daffodils only are a simple and bright way to display them.  I usually just let them grow in the ground until their blooms are spent.  They last longer that way.

Don’t allow pets to ingest the bulbs.  Make sure, if your pet is a “digger,” that the bulbs are away from where your pet will be able to get to them.  Planted safely, and properly, they have been known to bloom for decades into the future.

What else can you teach us about the daffodil?

In a place known for Victorian architecture, daffodils were once meant to symbolize chivalry.  Today, the daffodil is a symbol of hope.  We need hope.  So next time you see a daffodil, remember that they represent hope, and perhaps it will leave you with a sense of hope in your life, and for our planet. One last thing...

There is an A. A. Milne quote that I love:  

She wore her yellow sun-bonnet,
She wore her greenest gown;
She turned to the south wind
And curtsied up and down.
She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor:
"Winter is dead.” 

 

Bye, Winter!  Hello, Spring!  The Daffodil has spoken, and so has Barbara Hamilton Bray Wilde!  Let the blooming begin!  Check out the daffodils everywhere you go and the amazing displays at Willow Creek Winery and Farm! We will be back Getting Wilde in the Garden to learn more, but until then, we hope you feel inspired to get wild in your garden and enjoy this hopeful time of year.

March 15, 2022

Thank you for reading the first in a recurring, bi-weekly article from the NJ Farmers Cooperative called “Getting Wilde in the Garden.” Every couple of weeks, readers can look forward to some surprising and educational information and tips about growing various plants in an interview with Barbara Hamilton Bray Wilde, Director of the NJ Farmers Cooperative.  For anyone who has the chance to sit down with Ms. Wilde to talk about gardens, gardening, farming and agriculture, botany of all kinds, one quickly realizes that this is truly a passion made into a vocation.  She is wild about gardens.  Her face lights up and you quickly realize that Wilde is wild about gardening topics.

For each interview we will choose a plant or tree or flower or bee, and Get Wilde In the Garden to tell us what she knows.  She will provide some interesting, helpful and even surprising facts as you will learn.  We hope that you will look forward to each new article, and that they help inspire the gardener in you, so you can get wild in your garden, too. 

 

For this first article, we got Wilde in the Garden, and asked her about the NJ Farmers Cooperative logo:  the carrot.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You could have used any plant or image to represent the NJFC.  Why the carrot?

 

Well, we wanted the logo to be a metaphor for community and agriculture…roots!  Farmers have their roots here, artists, musicians, historians, and preservationists have made their roots here, and the carrot is a root vegetable. They’re diverse. They’re bright and colorful.  They’re sweet, refreshing.  They’re versatile. Just like people…our community and the many visitors that travel to the area each year.  In short, the carrot has so much to offer, just like the NJ Farmers Cooperative.  It will be a place intended for the community to gather for agriculture, education, history, shopping, art, culture, music and events. Though our initial opening for the NJFC was delayed due to the pandemic, we look forward to moving full steam ahead. 

What can you teach us about the carrot that we might not know already?

Carrots are one of the most popular vegetables in the world.  They are a beautiful plant above and below ground.  They belong to the plant species daucus carota.  The lovely and lacey Queen Anne’s lace wildflower comes from the same family and is sometimes called “wild carrot!”  Notice, next time you see some Queen Anne’s lace growing, smell it.  It smells like carrots.  You can even eat their roots when they’re young.

 

Wilde carrot? Or Wild Carrot?

Haha! Wild!  

Carrots actually have an interesting and surprising history!  They are known to first be grown in Afghanistan, dating back to 900 AD.  Have you ever seen a purple carrot?  Sometimes you can find them at markets.  The first carrots were purple.  It is my understanding that carrots weren’t actually orange until about the 15th century. When orange carrots were first cultivated, they were popular because the orange carrots didn’t stain the way the purple ones do. And they were sweeter!  While they are originally believed to be from Afghanistan, people from all over the world include them in their cuisine today.

Do carrots help with eyesight?

Carrots are not known to improve already poor vision, but carrots contain vitamins, beta-carotine.  Our bodies convert it into Vitamin A, which is known to be an important nutrient for eyes.  Carrots also are an antioxidant because of the presence of lutein, and increase protection to the eye.  Keep in mind, it is true that cooked carrots give over 90% of nutrients compared to raw carrots with give less than 5%.  Either way, they do provide a good source of fiber as well!

What about the greens?  People tend to cut off the top of the carrot and toss them.  Why?

Don’t throw them out!  Wash them, and dry them.  Eat them raw in salad or sauté them with olive oil, garlic, and other vegetables.  They also are good when added into soup stock.  Keep the greens!  Keep in mind, they are a little bitter when raw, so you may not want to use them as a “main green” in a salad, but they do add a nice variety of flavors in a good summer salad.

How hardy are carrots for growing and when are they best harvested?

They are extremely hardy.  They are so hardy you can, if done correctly, harvest carrots throughout the year, even in wintertime.  The longer you wait to harvest a carrot, the sweeter they are.  The trick is to insulate them during the winter, which only takes a simple leafy mulch to provide them with the safety they need from the winter chills.

 

Well, that’s enough talk of winter chills.  Next time when we meet, can we get Wilde in the Garden and talk about springtime daffodils?

Yes, I love daffodils and how they can grow wild!

It is always interesting Getting Wilde in the Garden to talk about what she loves… just gaining more appreciation for the carrot and what it can represent:  roots, earth, community, agriculture, diversity and strength.  No wonder the carrot is the logo for the NJ Farmers Cooperative! 

Look for our next Getting Wilde in the Garden when we will chat with NJFC Director, Barbara Hamilton Bray Wilde – about daffodils!