MAY 16, 2022
Let’s face it, spring comes slowly to New England. We must take encouragement in the unfolding of every early-blooming flower. As hydrangeas and roses are to Newport summers, the daffodil is to Newport in spring. Thanks to the continued efforts of Newport in Bloom and the championing of Daffy John Hirschboek, Newporters, and visitors alike, now enjoy the blooms of approximately 1.2 million daffodils from late March through early May.
The initiative for a daffodil campaign started with Scott Wheeler, Newport Tree Warden since 1994 and current Superintendent of Parks, Grounds & Forestry. He was inspired by the daffodils in Inverness, Scotland that brighten up the banks of the Ness River.
Inverness, Scotland photo credit: Dave Conner Wikimedia Commons
Begun in 1998 as Parks in Bloom, the initial planting consisted of 3,300 bulbs which grew to 180,000 over the next 15 years. Partnering with Newporter Ron Fleming, Chair Emeritus of Scenic America, they set their sights on reaching the planting of a million daffodils in Newport — or a Daffodillion! They finally reached their goal in the last couple of years, aided and abetted by Newport in Bloom, a non-profit that organizes the bulb giveaways each fall, and retired international ad man, John Hirschboeck, a.k.a. “Daffy John” — lead promoter of the Newport Daffodil Days celebration.
A highlight for us this year was the Driving Miss Daffodil car parade that rode through Castle Hill on an otherwise chilly April morning.
As they are at Castle Hill, where we have 34,000 of them, the daffodils are especially appealing set against the backdrop of the sea. Large displays of them can be found out by First Beach and along the Cliff Walk.
Now that the daffodils are starting to fade, we are encouraged by other signs of spring: like the cherry blossoms that line the drive up to the mansion, the initial planting of the harvest, healing and ornamental gardens at Castle Hill, and a new spring tradition: the filming of HBO’s The Gilded Age in and around the mansions and historical sites of Newport.
Castle Hill Harvest Garden – Photo by Erin McGinn
A scene from The Gilded Age filmed in Newport – Photograph by Alison Cohen Rosa/HBO
Lastly, we look to the Canada geese that are more than abundant in Newport and on our property in winter, but disappear for the most part in spring, with the exception of a few breeding couples. Whatever you feel about Canada geese, their wobbling fuzzy goslings are cute as can be, and a sure sign that spring has arrived and summer is on its way!
–Shea C Nelson