“Daffy down dilly has come up to town
In a yellow petticoat and a green gown.”
–Mother Goose rhyme
They are a shout-out to spring, which may otherwise be reluctant to arrive here. The earliest miniature daffodils have opened, and shortly the season’s main show emerges. The narcissus family makes a good choice for Island gardens and naturalizing, as they are seldom eaten by anything.
The miniatures attract me with a charm of their own. Many are among the earliest to appear, and are tough and low to the ground if wild weather occurs. They make good rock garden subjects, and also naturalize well.
The daffodil societies recognize 13 divisions, with No. 13 being where many, but not all, of the smallest are categorized. The other divisions reflect cup or trumpet size, and the species or botanical origins of the group.
The Tenby daffodil, Narcissus obvallaris, is wild in Wales, and is considered a species. N. obvallaris is slightly larger than those that are categorized in Division 13, the smallest division, and looks a lot like a smaller trumpet daffodil.
- ‘Tête à Tête’ is said to be the most planted narcissus, worldwide. It often bears two flowers on a stem, accounting for its name. The perianth is yellow, and the trumpet a deeper yellow. It is often sold in four-inch pots in grocery stores around Easter time, and can be replanted outside when it has gone by, where it will increase happily for years.
- ‘Topolino’ is a dwarf bicolor, with lemon yellow trumpet and pale creamy perianth, very early, very good naturalizer.
- ‘Little Gem’ is a very small, all-deep-yellow trumpet, very early, and a good increaser. Plant ‘Little Gem’ where you can see it up close.
Let all narcissus die down naturally, and avoid removing or interfering with the leaves: These are storing energies through photosynthesis for next year’s flowers, so it may not be ideal to feature narcissus in garden beds; but plant them in shrub borders, in grass, or other spots where they can finish their ripening without attracting attention.
The 16th annual Earth Hour was this past Saturday. It is when we support the World Wildlife Fund’s campaign to emphasize protection of our earthly environment. In good weather especially, Earth Hour is an opportunity to take a quiet nighttime walk. Around the world, irrespective of national boundaries, political differences, levels of wealth, or which hemispheres we reside in, we turn off our lights for one hour from 8:30 to 9:30 pm.
“The hour of darkness pulls us out of the busyness of our daily routines, and allows us to reflect on the one home we all share [my emphasis]. In the face of accelerating biodiversity loss and climate change, there has never been a more crucial time to come together and take action for our collective future.” –World Wildlife Fund
By the time you are reading this, Earth Hour will have passed. I would like to ask you to recall just which “all-important, critical, can’t-miss” activity you were engaged in then. What humdrum pastime were you doing when you passed on the chance to focus on the natural world for one brief hour of one small fraction of the year?
While its impacts are still being studied and vary widely across species, scientists do know light pollution is affecting how plants grow and reproduce. It disrupts their seasonal rhythms, their ability to sense and react to natural light, and their fragile relationship with pollinators. The more strained that relationship becomes, the more our food supply may be put in jeopardy.
Nighttime is meant to be dark. For some time it has been known that artificial lights along the major flyways interfere with migrating flocks’ navigation and ability to successfully make the long transits. Much of this migratory flight happens during nighttime, using birds’ ages-old navigational abilities and the Milky Way. Spring in the northern hemisphere is when millions of annually migrating birds travel enormous distances from their wintertime habitats to northern breeding grounds.
Everywhere, “because it is so cheap,” economical LED lighting leads to much more lighting installed and burning longer. Big buildings in built-up and urban areas are deadly; but even in small places like the Vineyard, on the East Coast migratory route, the lack of dark skies hurts birds, plants, pollination, and humans’ own circadian cycles, critical to health.
Why, you may ask, should we change our habits, just for birds?
Birds eat insects! About 200,000 insects are needed to bring one baby barn swallow to maturity, it is estimated. Without the insect control of birds and nocturnal bats, our food, lives, and health are jeopardized far more than people realize.
Island towns can implement down-lighting, shielding, and measures such as warm-tone (not blue-tone) LED lighting to minimize nighttime light pollution, in addition to echoing the Texas initiative of turning off nonessential lighting between 11 pm and 6 am.
Many have become interested in more durable, lower-maintenance eco-lawns, and know of white clover’s advantages as a dark green, low-maintenance, low-input lawn. Going one step further, consider an eco-lawn composed of the native grass Danthonia spicata, poverty oat grass.
According to Prairie Moon Nursery, which sells seed for it, “Poverty Oat Grass is a species that can be found throughout much of the U.S. … This cool-season grass prefers light, well-drained soil in full or partial sun. It forms low tufts with basal leaves that tend to curve to right or left. Older leaves often brown and curl inward, giving it its other common name, Curly Grass. Thin flowering culms develop and rise above the tufts.
“This is a plant useful for groundcover or erosion control, as it has small rhizomes and deep roots to hold soil in place and spread out easily. The small flowers also attract butterflies.”
One of Kentuckian Wendell Berry’s points in his cultural history, “The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture,” is how it has become an established tenet of commerce that we now expect to pay for things that were once free.
Berry expounds on much more in this now classic, prescient look at the U.S., its society, and its culture. “While its impacts are still being studied and vary widely across species, scientists do know light pollution is affecting how plants grow and reproduce. It disrupts their seasonal rhythms, their ability to sense and react to natural light, and their fragile relationship with pollinators. The more strained that relationship becomes, the more our food supply may be put in jeopardy. And just one broken link could create unfathomable physiological consequences up and down the food chain,” Berry says.
Holocene to dollar scene
The Atlantic Flyway is a major north-south flyway for migratory birds in North America. The route starts in Greenland, then follows the coast of North America to South America and the Caribbean. Migratory birds travel this route every year. This route does not have mountains to block the path, and has good sources of water, food, and cover over its entire length. The Atlantic Flyway is the most densely populated and intensively developed of the four flyways. The other flyways include the Central, the Pacific, and the Mississippi. According to Audubon, about 500 bird species use the Atlantic Flyway, per the Cape Wildlife Center.