Spring made its official arrival on March 20 but only this week have I have begun to feel like it's really here. The purple crocuses are popping up in the yard behind our historic church building and the forsythia bushes are ready to burst into bloom with their bright yellow flowers. And our own bulbs we planted in the late fall are beginning to peek through the ground as well. All this spring color is more evident here on Nantucket because the blooms appear against a dull gray background. Gray shingled houses, gray prickly brush and even gray skies! However, today, though it's still in the 40s, the sun is bright and doing its job to coax the shy flowers from their warming earth.
Today was the first day our church gardening group gathered out on the church lawn to fertilize the planting beds with bone meal and to lay some rich compost generated from our compost pile. It was a real treat to get out and get my hands dirty in the earth. It's something I miss in the winter months living here in New England.
Daffodils play an important role on Nantucket in the spring. Each year in late April, Nantucket comes alive with spring. Yellow daffodils bloom along roadsides and in gardens all over the island. According to the Nantucket Chamber of Commerce, from early April to mid-May, over three million daffodils of every color, shape and size bloom on Nantucket. This blossoming, and the advent of spring itself, is the focal point of the Chamber's Annual Daffodil Festival. Originated by the late Jean MacAusland, a summer resident of Nantucket and former publisher of Gourmet magazine, the weekend has grown into a full-scale celebration of winter’s thaw, joyous for both islanders and visitors alike. Daffodils adorn the island’s roadsides, gardens and shop windows with blossoms of yellow, orange, white and even pale pink.
The Daffodil Festival’s grand event, held on Saturday is the Annual Antique Car Parade, featuring over 100 daffodil-bedecked antique cars. After winding through town and across the island to the charming village of Siasconset, participants join residents and visitors for the Annual Daffodil Tailgate Picnic. Other highlights include the Nantucket Garden Club’s Annual Daffodil Show, Children’s Daffodil Parade and The Daffy Hat Pageant.
Last year was the first time I went to the Daffodil Flower Show and was amazed at the different varieties of daffodils. Who knew? My grandmother always had daffodils in her garden when we grew up in Louisiana but they were the standard variety and nothing exotic.
The flower show is co-sponsored by the Nantucket Garden Club and the American Daffodil Society. The Garden Club continues the daffodil bulb planting project along roadways and bike paths, plus involves the local school children growing bulbs for the flower show. I found out this week in an interview for a newsletter I am writing that each October the middle school science classes bag and label over a thousand bulbs to hand out to students from kindergarten through high school to plant at home. The Garden Club donates the bulbs in hopes that the students will consider entering their daffodils in the junior division of the Daffodil Flower Show the following spring. What a great learning experience! It reminds me of experiences I had when I was a Girl Scout earning my flower badge, something I really enjoyed.
This year Daffodil Weekend takes place from April 25 to 27 on Nantucket. It's beginning to be a busy spring around here with Town Meeting starting April 7 followed by Town Elections on April 15. My Arts Council work is gearing with plans for our "Shakespeare in the Garden" fundraiser in late June, our Shakespeare Festival in mid-July and our fall Arts Festival starting Labor Day weekend. The busy time of the year is beginning to take shape. Good bye, winter!