It’s Time for Daffodils

The many varieties of daffodils are a joy for me

written by: Marieke Westgeest | 09-02-2021

It's Time for Daffodils

During COVID-19 I visit greenhouses. To hear people’s stories and to admire their beautiful flowers.


It's Time for Daffodils


I Think of Daffodils

When the new year begins, besides tulips, I also think of daffodils as they are immediately available in the supermarkets of the Netherlands. Mostly, you find them at the exits laying in cardboard boxes and you buy a bunch for very little money. “These are the big yellow ones”, said Dirk Leenen, owner – together with his brother Jaco – of W.F. Leenen en Zn., “whereas we have 15 varieties, and we continue to breed new ones. We are the global innovators with respect to daffodils.” Of course, I was curious to learn more but Dirk advised me to wait for a little. He said to me to come a few weeks later when the greenhouse has colored yellow. So I did.



A Greenhouse in Full Swing

Arriving there I see a very modern building with huge cold storages, a planting machine, and a light greenhouse full of flowers. The growing process is in full swing with the forcing process as the spring season is anticipated. It all starts with bulbs. The bulbs are mechanically put in boxes with North Sea shells to create air between the bulbs as daffodils create very strong roots and also to keep the boxes clean. These boxes are stored cold for a period of 4-8 weeks for the bulbs to get roots. Also, the stems start growing then.

Once the stems are visible the boxes are transported to the greenhouse where the bulbs continue growing for another 2-3 weeks in daylight and a mild climate. Then the harvest begins. Walking through the greenhouse I see men and women walking around with long stabbing knives. They cut the mature daffodils from their bulbs and put the flowers in wooden boxes that are transported to the conveyor belt for creating bunches.

The production is very clean because no nutrition needs to be given: the bulb has it all. But the bulb needs rest to be able to give. When all the bulbs have flowered and have been harvested, the shells and bulbs are separated from the boxes. The bulbs will return to the cold ground outside and will remain there for one or two years. Then they are ready again to go back into the forcing cycle.


It's Time for Daffodils
Dirk and Jaco Leenen boxing narcissus Avalanche


Forcing Is An Interesting Concept

I find forcing an interesting concept. The word is created as the bulbs are treated as such that they can be harvested in winter instead of spring, which would be a natural way. The daffodil season is from January until Easter. Dirk confirms to me that the first two weeks of January are very good for the sale. “People want spring in their house after Christmas, like a new beginning”, Dirk says and I agree as it is like my own thought.

Most of the time W.F. Leenen has a sales dip around Valentine’s Day and, strikingly, 8 March, the International Women’s Day, has become their biggest sales moment. It is even bigger than Easter. “Fortunately”, Dirk tells, “the sales are remarkably stable this year. That was different when the first lockdown in March 2020 started: 95% of their harvest had to be destroyed. We simply mowed the daffodils from the boxes and that was the sudden end of our season. After Easter, we tried to sell what we had left but it was very difficult”, Dirk continues.



A Colorful Sight

Walking through the greenhouse I see the various beds with daffodils. It is a colorful sight: flowers in white, yellow, and orange, and a variation of these colors, flowers with double or single petals, with double or single hearts in different combinations of colors and color shades. Surprisingly, the sun is shining that day and that enlarges the golden glow in the greenhouse. It is beautiful.



A Solution for Daffodils in Bouquets

I have a last question for Dirk: “I have learned that daffodils cannot be used in bouquets as they spread a juice that kills the other flowers”. Dirk tells me that there is a solution for this: there is certain daffodil nutrition that avoids the flowers spreading the juices. So once this is used a bouquet can be made. That is interesting news.


It's Time for Daffodils


The Mythology of Narcissus

The many varieties of daffodils are a joy for me. And I wonder: May we love these flowers as they are also the symbol of egoism deriving from Greek Mythology? Narcissus was a vain guy, more interested in the reflection of his own face in the water than in all his admirers, and his longing for himself became his death. But the goddess of beauty, Aphrodite, pitied the young man, and when he vanished she changed him into a flower, the narcissus or daffodil flower, also a symbol of spring, that we still enjoy. May the goddess of beauty rule in any circumstance that is troubling human beings!


It's Time for Daffodils
Narcissus Cragford

Marieke Westgeest

Flowers make me happy. Nature does well to human beings.

In our times we lost contact with nature as we spend so much time behind our computer devices.

It is, therefore, my goal to interest people again about his part of nature, flowers.

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