The last daffodil is a bittersweet sight

Posted on: May 11, 2018 | Written By: Doug Oster | Comments

The last fragrant daffodil began to fade today. It’s a sad but, in a way, a wonderful time.

The last daffodil to bloom is a bittersweet sight. Photo by Doug Oster

The last daffodil to bloom is a bittersweet sight. This is ‘Sir Winston Churchill. Photo by Doug Oster

By nature, gardens are ever changing, ephemeral, giving way to other plants taking center stage in the landscape. They are old friends and a welcome sight when they appear the same time each year.

Nothing can compare to daffodil season though, as it signals the end of another endless winter. In February the first greens peek through the snow carefully trying to determine if the time is right to send their buds above ground to put on their show and bring hope to gardeners everywhere. For centuries, the bulbs have been the harbingers of spring. Since they quickly disappear as summer looms, they are all that more precious.

Daffodils have held a special place in my heart for more than 50 years. I never knew either of my grandfathers as they passed away before I was born. I lost my paternal grandmother as a 6-year-old but was lucky enough to learn how to garden from my mother and her mother, too.

My grandparents are all buried at Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland along with President James A. Garfield, Eliot Ness, John D. Rockefeller, Indians shortstop Ray Chapman (the only professional baseball player to die after being hit by a pitch) and a host of other famous, infamous and just regular people.

It’s also home to Daffodil Hill — an embankment of flowers that was first planted in the 1940s. I saw it 20 some years later after bending down to kiss my grandfather’s grave, something a 7-year-old would do. My mother always talked about that hillside, and it’s been part of me since childhood.

In 1998, I started my own Daffodil Hill here in Pittsburgh in memory of my grandparents, adding as many bulbs as I can each fall. When they bloom, I think about those simpler times, often transported back to that day when I first saw those yellow trumpets.

Before the greens fade away, I’ll walk the woodlands with stakes in hand to mark planting areas for the fall, dreaming of next year’s flowers as the memory of the pretty, fragrant blooms are still fresh in my mind.

Over the summer, as the garden explodes with color and tomato vines overgrowing their cages, the daffodils will be forgotten. There’s a day in September when the sun filters through the trees at a low angle and the air turns crisp. Winter is on the horizon, and bulb planting begins again. An essential tradition that ensures the perpetuation of the spring show.

As I hold the last daffodil of the season in my hand, transfixed by the gardenia-like fragrance of the tiny flowers of ‘Sir Winston Churchill, I fantasize about another spring so far off and the feeling of seeing the forest floor covered once again with a multitude of yellow, white, pink and orange blooms.

I hope my grandparents would be proud.

Doug Oster is editor of Everybody Gardens, a website operated by 535Media, LLC. Reach him at 412-965-3278 or See other stories, videos, blogs, tips and more at

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