Ah, Spring! Birds and green grass, skirts and bare legs. Cleavage on inline skates! Shirtless men slinging frisbees in the park! It seems as if the harsh, cold, freezing slush of winter was… well, it didn’t really happen this year. Seems like Al Gore was right, and winter is on its way out for good, and that means… well it doesn’t mean good things in any capacity, but let’s enjoy the weather while we can. Let’s stop and smell those flowers. What flowers are they? Why, they just happen to be Daffodils — the newly anointed Official Flower of the City of New York! Why, you might ask, are Daffodils the Official Flower? Well, that’s why we’re here: to clear up any and all confusions about this complicated, confounded city of ours, and its silly Officializing of such things as flowers.
This past Friday, Mayor Bloomberg proclaimed "The daffodil has been selected as the official flower of the City of New York. This flower has earned the distinction, the Daffodil Project makes the City a more beautiful place every year, and bring us all together by serving as a living memorial to the victims of September 11th." But before we get to the Daffodil Project, lets go back to the Dutch and the shipping colony of New Amsterdam. The Daffodil is not native to the lowlands of Holland, but rather the Mediterranean. It was first studied and brought to Europe in the 1570s by the Flemish botanist Charles de l’Écluse, considered by many as the Godfather of Botany, who brought the seeds back to the Netherlands, and through cross-pollination developed thousands of hues of Daffodils and Tulips, from common yellow to the rare hot pink. Early Dutch settlers brought Daffodil bulbs to New Amsterdam, and fields of Daffodils can be seen in early landscape paintings of the hectic shipping colony here, on display at the New-York Historical Society.
More recently, Daffodils became a citywide statement of healing and remembrance through The Daffodil Project, an ongoing, non-profit “Living Memorial” in which volunteers, aided by the Parks Department, would plant millions of Daffodil bulbs throughout the five boroughs. Started just one month after 9/11, the Daffodil plantings became a brilliant living symbol of New York’s resiliency and capacity for healing. As part of the outpouring of international support, Hans van Waardenburg of B&K Bulbs in the Netherlands, representing an international group of well-wishers from across the ocean, donated over one and a half million daffodils and tulips to the NYC Parks Department, which were planted in our parks. Three years on, Waardenburg has continued to donate half a million bulbs to our city each year. In another touching moment of individuals reaching out to show some love to NYC, a Minnesota handyman and Holocaust survivor, Joseph Temeczko, upon his deathbed, willed his entire estate of $1.4 million to planting tulips and daffodils in the city, as well as renovating the small Chinatown green-space of Columbus Park (once the notorious Five Points).
So we find it sweet-smelling that Mayor Mike decided, once and for all, to raise the Daffodil to its illustrious place among the fiefdom of New York State Officials: the Bluebird (State Bird), Garnet (State Stone), Milk (State Beverage) and Bay Scallop (State Shellfish). Hold up . . . according to the I (Heart) NY website for kids, the Official State Flower is the Rose. What? What?! Sounds like there’s going to be a RUMBLE IN THE BOTANICAL!