Like the tulips of Holland, the daffodil has become synonymous with Gloucester County. Call ’em jonquils or daffodils—April is the time to come see the show.
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In 1804, William Wordsworth captivated the sense of gaiety one feels in the spring, observing fields of blooming daffodils “tossing their heads in sprightly dance,” in his well-known poem “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.” Two hundred years later, these delightful heralds of spring, in their many sizes, colors and varieties, still captivate and delight the eye of the beholder, whether seen growing in large fields or solitary beside a doorstep or beneath a tree.
Gloucester County, once home to a thriving daffodil industry and where daffodils still grow in abundance, especially in sandy soil along the water, will celebrate the arrival of this beloved flower once again this year in its 30th annual Daffodil Festival. Always held the first Saturday in April, the festival officially welcomes the spring and its first hardy blossoms of gold, the traditional and most common color of the daffodil. During the daylong festival, the Middle Peninsula county is expected to play host to thousands of visitors from throughout Virginia and neighboring states.
“We are offering a family fest, with something for everyone, from grandma to the toddlers,” says Denise Carter, Gloucester’s recreation coordinator. On a good day, crowds in the past have numbered as high as 18,000. A parade will kick off the festival on the county’s Main Street.
The festival will showcase area talent in a fine arts show, an annual talent show and featured live performances of bluegrass, pop, rock and gospel music. Throughout the day, artists will display and sell their original art and handcrafts inside Gloucester’s historic Court Circle.
One important source of area daffodils (and other flowers) is the farm of Brent and Becky Heath in the Ware Neck area of Gloucester. The Heaths are well known throughout the country for their expertise with daffodils and other bulbs. They own Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, named the “Best Bulb Company in America” by The Wall Street Journal.
The Heaths’ farm residence covers 10 acres, and includes production fields, trial areas, the Heaths’ private gardens, and pond areas planted more than 50 years ago by Brent Heath’s parents George and Katharine Heath.
At Brent and Becky’s Bulb Shoppe, approximately 800 different cultivars will be in bloom in the catalogue garden, says Becky. This garden represents many of the varieties of flowers offered in Brent and Becky’s spring catalogue, including 350 varieties of daffodils.
The adjoining courtyard garden at the Bulb Shoppe features sitting areas for guests, surrounded by raised flower boxes, and the front patio area will be adorned with blooming plants “brought up to eye level where they’re easier to see and smell,” says Becky.
Inside the shop, summer bulbs and a variety of gift items will be offered for sale. Brent and Becky, who both have teaching backgrounds, hold monthly seminars and workshops in a large room at the Bulb Shoppe. “One must sell something to earn a living,” says Becky, “but we feel like we’re educators first. That’s why we open our home.”
In 2001, she and her husband were honored for their “... horticultural leadership, promoting the use of a wide variety of bulbs in the garden,” with the Gold Medal of Honor from the Massachusetts Horticultural Society.
They have also been recognized for their efforts to popularize and promote the use of daffodils by the American Daffodil Society, and with various other recognitions and awards.
The Heaths have also co-authored two books, Daffodils for North American Gardens and Tulips for North American Gardens. Both Brent and Becky have also been featured guests on national television programs.
On of the highlights of the weekend is the Gloucester Daffodil Show, one of the largest daffodil shows in the country. The show, usually held the weekend of the Daffodil Festival, is scheduled for the afternoon on both Saturday and Sunday, April 2 and 3, at Gloucester’s Page Middle School on Route 17. This is an American Daffodil Society-accredited show, featuring competition in single blooms as well as arrangements.