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Daffodils put the freshest face on spring

A yellow daffodil will never go out of style. Sure, it's a sentimental favorite, but I'd like to point out that a daffodil has so much more to offer than just a yellow flower.

New blooms pop out white, red, pink, orange and green, too. And the shape of the flower knocks me over every spring.

The flower is a downright triumph of early spring. It's like Mother Nature's cup and saucer, prim and dainty as the Queen Mum, and as deceptively indestructible. The daffodil stands up proudly through pouring rain, sleet and mud.

Elise Havens of Hubbard grew up with daffodils. Heck, her father, Grant Mitsch, started growing and selling daffodils more than 60 years ago. Mitsch started tinkering with hybridizing very early on Ñ back in 1934. He had to wait until 1939 to see the flowers he made, because it takes five years for a daffodil to bloom from seed (and 15 years to get enough bulbs to sell).

Mitsch spent those years learning from the master, writing letters back and forth to daffodil legend Guy Wilson in Ireland. In the midst of the Depression, this playing with plants and cross-pollinating flowers really picked up his spirits.

You should see his creations. His daffodil, 'Rapture,' is a fascinating hybrid. In bloom right now, 'Rapture' has petals that sweep straight back like a comet streaking through the sky, and the trumpet is very tubular. The flower made its debut on the 50th anniversary of Grant E. Mitsch Novelty Daffodils, the same year the Havens took over the company.

Mitsch also made headway creating daffodils with two colors in one flower. 'Trumpet Warrior' is called a reverse bicolor, meaning that the cup or trumpet and the petals are different colors. Got that?

But here's what's even more extraordinary: The petals of 'Trumpet Warrior' are all white except for a yellow halo where the trumpet connects. Then the trumpet slowly turns white except for a yellow rim along the top. Thus, you've got your two colors in reverse.

Even today, you will find in excess of 600 hybrids in Mitsch's name in the records of the Royal Horticulture Society (the world naming authority for narcissus, which is the fancy name for daffodils). Obviously, it's an enormous accomplishment.

Mitsch is gone now. Havens and her husband, Richard, continue the family business, a love of hybridizing and a catalog to share them. Their catalog is full of 250 daffodils created over three generations.

Bulbs range from $4 to $39 each. People who show daffodils, hybridize or just have an all-consuming passion for them will pay up to $160 for one bulb. It amazes me how many people in gardening, right in our back yard, quietly continue their passion for plants and do remarkable things without us taking notice.

Elise Havens says: 'My father always sold more bulbs in Georgia than he did in Oregon. People there thought they were exotic.'

She saw that start to change about 20 years ago when people in the Northwest rediscovered the beauty of daffodils. And I've got to admit, I rediscover their beauty every year.

No, a yellow daffodil won't go out of style, but its hybrid grandchildren sure are a colorful bunch.

Details on daffodils

• Pick as many flowers as you like; it doesn't hurt the bulb.

• Avoid cutting the stalk, leaves or bulb with scissors because this can spread disease.

• For indoor flowers, snap off flower stalks down at the base.

• Don't remove the leaves or braid them. They're making bulb food for next year.

• It's not necessary to cut off the old daffodil flowers or stems. Very few will go to seed.

Where to see them

Grant E. Mitsch Daffodil Farm

503-651-2742

Display gardens open until first week of April

6247 S. Sconce Road, Hubbard

(Between Meridian and Barlow roads outside Hubbard)

Oregon Daffodil Society shows

• Amity Daffodil Festival

Saturday, March 22, and Sunday, March 23

Grade school gym, 300 Rice Lane, Amity

503-835-3751

• Oregon Garden

Saturday, April 5, and Sunday, April 6

879 W. Main St., Silverton

1-877-674-2733 (toll-free)