Power to gather

Choose a flower and be filled with joyful wisdom! Daffodil doubles, April 2015

Choose a flower to study, and be filled with joyful wisdom!
Daffodil doubles, April 2015

…he is happiest who hath power
To gather wisdom from a flower…            

 Mary Howitt

What is your favorite flower?  That’s a tough question to answer; I tend to be fondest of whatever I happen to be seeing at the moment.  But if I had to choose, the delightful daffodil is my favorite.

I gather many bits of wisdom from this perky blossom.  Its early appearance each spring shows me the radiance of hope for sunny skies on the way.  Its bright yellow hue (or creamy pastel shades in the fuller “double” blooms, as pictured above) and beautiful green leaves teach me the power of color to lift our moods and decorate our lives.

The daffodil spends the fall and winter strengthening its roots, resulting in showy blooms when March arrives.  It grows in clusters, and spreads across wide areas in dazzling displays that inspired the famous Wordsworth poem.   The daffodil’s exquisite shape seems to suggest openness and readiness; if it’s possible for a flower to seem friendly, this one does.

Tell us about what blossoms you love best.  Take a few minutes to do an online image search, and marvel at the wonderful photographs that are freely available to cheer us when this year’s flowers have mostly faded.  Have you ever gathered wisdom from a flower?  If so, feel free to share it with us here.  It’s one of the happiest topics I know!


  1. Good Monday morning, Julia. Flowers in bloom, any color, but mass plantings, can be more beautiful than anything I can think of. I have one of your photographs as my screensaver. It was taken on March 28th, 2007. It has brightened my day many times. I saved it after you used it on Defeat Despair. I love begonias, especially the Angel Wing. There are many varieties, some so beautiful because of their foliage only. Ah, flowers! 🌺🌼🌸🌻

    • Sheila, I’m so happy you liked that photo enough to save it on your computer! I had to look up Angel Wing begonia, as I couldn’t remember which those were, but they are beautiful. I do love begonias too. We used to have some in front of our home in York Co. that would last an amazingly long time each year, blooming through December if the frost wasn’t too bad. I would dig them up and try to keep them alive indoors each year, but over the years they gradually faded and now we only have two or three from those original plants.

      YES, mass plantings are amazing! In Texas the fields of Bluebonnets or Indian Paintbrush were so stunning, it was hard to believe they grew wild. One thing I loved about living on the central coast of CA was the nearest little town, Lompoc, had huge flower fields; flower seeds were the local industry. The rows and patches of brilliant colors would look like a quilt. Here is a quick Google collage of photos of those fields for you to enjoy.

  2. Julie, good morning. Flowers, God’s beautiful gift to us.
    Beautiful tiny flowers peaking through the grass gives hope that spring is almost here. Roses and their lovely showiness.
    and yes the bright, shiny daffodil…
    For me too, the flower I’m looking at the moment is my favorite. I’m thankful for God’s gift of color and flowers. ❤

    • Merry, you and I think alike! Isn’t it amazing how much variety there is in nature, no matter where we look? There is a divine diversity that never fails to delight me. That there could be so many shapes, sizes, colors and fragrances among the flowers is a pure joy. YES I thank God too, for this wonderful gift. It’s no mystery to me why Jesus told people to “consider the lilies” when he was encouraging them not to be anxious.

  3. I have 3 favorite flowers from which I cannot pick my very most favorite. They are: tulips (for being an early spring flower and blooming both domestically — orderly — and wild and free), lilacs (for their fragrance as well as their beauty and the memories they evoke for me), and daisies, a kind of “anytime”, simple, casual flower.

    • Abby, thanks for including those three “superstars” of the flower world. Tulips are fabulous! I planted tulip bulbs until my hands were sore when we first moved to Virginia, only to have NONE of them come up…later I was educated by neighbors on the voles that got to the bulbs no matter where they are planted. Even the ones in pots never bloomed for me, and the next year, when we tried using underground barrier of various sorts to keep them out, that didn’t work either. So I have resigned myself to reliance on the diligence and expertise of others who are better able to produce results. Lilacs! I have always wanted some. The fragrance alone would be worth growing them, even if they were UGLY, but that gorgeous purple color puts them near the top of my “must plant” wish list for someday. And yes, the humble daisy is such a joy no matter where we see it, but I especially like to see them in bouquets of cut flowers. In Texas I had some red shasta daisies that I loved. They rival daffodils in their cheeriness. Thanks for sharing these thoughts with us…I am smiling just thinking of these beautiful blooms!

  4. Jack

    When I was 8 years old, we had Poem Wednesday in 3rd grade class. Most of the kids got up and read dorky poems, but my mother made me memorize them. “I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me…” of Robert Louis Stevenson fame one of those that sticks in my memory but I do indeed digress!

    So imagine my horror as, slicked-back hair and penny loafer shod feet, I recited from memory Wordsworth’s “when all at once I saw a host…” and pretty little Eliza Smith (name changed to protect the innocent) was giving me the “what a total loser” look. But I’ve never forgotten that poem and 48 years later I’m pretty sure I memorized it not because of mom, but because I like flowers and have planted a solid gazillion over the years. To this day, I can’t see a daffodil without a little hint of regret over what might have been with sweet Eliza.

    • Jack, “I digress” is the unofficial motto of Defeat Despair! Maybe I should coin the phrase “Don’t despair – digress!” with thanks to Raynard for his inspiration. Eliza Smith didn’t know what she was missing. Judging by my own studied disdain of boys I had crushes on when I was that age, I’ll bet it was feigned anyway. Perhaps somewhere, Eliza thinks of you when she sees daffodils, or better yet, when she reads that wonderful poem. If you could memorize it at age 8, and still remember it all these years later, that’s impressive indeed. I first read it in a handwritten copy in the school notebook of my childhood friend Lani, who sometimes comments here. Like you, I remembered it vividly all those years, even after one reading. “Ten thousand saw I at a glance” was the phrase that stuck with me most. Here’s the handwritten copy from the master himself, courtesy of the British Library. Interestingly, the line that most stuck with me was different in this draft, but I like it just as well here — “ten thousand dancing in the breeze.” As a bonus, make a virtual visit to the land that inspired the poem.

  5. MaryAnn

    Beautiful bright spot in my day!!! Thank you for this post!!!

    • Mary Ann, you are welcome! I imagine the blooms are still beautiful in the NorCal Republic — enjoy them for me!

      • MaryAnn

        I think I sent you a photo email of a special one in my front yard?

        • Mary Ann, I will go back and search for it…my email inbox is a disaster area and I have so many messages I need to read. Thanks for flagging me about this one.

          • MaryAnn

            I just looked it up. It was sent Oct. 29, 2015. Yet another similarity: my email inbox AND files (supposedly to keep them organized) are also “a disaster area”! WAAHHH!

            • Found it! Thanks for the tip. WOW — is that a clematis? Those flowers look enormous, and I love the color. Gorgeous quilt, too. OK, we will have to start an email inbox recovery group here. This week’s assignment: clear out at least one-tenth of your total inbox items. No, you don’t want to know how many I have, so you don’t have to tell me how many you have either…but I hereby declare that we are allowed to transfer them to some other folder. One disaster area at a time! Check in this time next week and we’ll see how we did. ONLY KIDDING! Maybe. 😀 But it might inspire me to get going.

  6. Julia, the photo that I mentioned earlier was from March 30, 2015. “Sweet Remembrances” was so beautiful, the words and your photo. It was nice to re-read today. ☔️ Sheila

    • Sheila, thanks for reminding me of that one — with over 850 posts, I lose track of them! I’m so glad you like that photo. It’s one of my favorites. Let’s take an imaginary stroll down that path…maybe we can skip! Boomdee would want us to! 😀

  7. I don’t think I could begin to name a favorite…or even ten. I love different colors, textures, smells, reminders. They’re all wonderful.

    Gardenia’s remind me of my wedding bouquet, mums and cyclamen remind me of Mom, orange flowers make me think of my oldest son, and squash blossoms remind me of my younger son. I love planting in purples, pinks, whites and yellows. Oh, just too many to choose from. What a wonderful dilemma, eh?

    • Alys, it is a wonderful dilemma, and especially so since we have so many emotional ties to various flowers. I was just thinking the other day that I want to get some cyclamen. The remind me of San Francisco, where I used to see so many of them blooming in wintertime, just as hydrangeas remind me of Lombard Street. Your color combo of purple, pink, white and yellow sounds lovely, and I don’t think I’ve ever used those four colors together; I must try it. We have a gardenia bush that we had given up for dead, that we transplanted last year and now it’s amazingly healthy and beautiful, much more so than the expensive shrubs we ordered from the landscaper. There must be some sort of life lesson in there someplace. I love the gardenia foliage almost as much as the flower. The first corsage a boy ever gave me was a gardenia, and I still remember the sweet aroma of it pinned to my shoulder. I admit I would never have thought of the squash blossom, though they are indeed quite pretty. Cactus blooms are too! You are right, there are just too many fabulous choices to settle on just one.

      • Variety is the spice of life…and the garden. I remember the cylamen growing in San Franciso as well, Julia. It’s such a surprise of color, just as everything seems to have died back, up they come.

        I tend to grow more yellow annuals then perennials: sunflowers, pumpkins and something that looks like a mum but isn’t (name escapes me). The bees swarm to that color, so they also remind me of the happy contributions bees make to the world. It’s a treat to see them in my garden.

        • Isn’t it delightful when urban spaces sport colorful flowers? As you say, the surprise element is part of the fun, and makes it memorable.

          It’s funny that I tend to gravitate toward pinks and blues where flowers are concerned, and yet the color that feels closest to my soul is yellow. When I picture mums, I always see them as yellow in my mind’s eye, though I like to buy the crimson and purple ones. I didn’t realize that bees loved yellow. I am always so happy when something we are growing draws lots of bees. I’ve read several recent stories about how the bees are diminishing in number, and all the ways in which their disappearance would negatively affect the environment. So I want to learn more about having a “bee and butterfly” type of garden. Beyond the natural aspects of it, the garden feels more lively when there are (beneficial) insects buzzing round.

  8. blseibel

    My favorite flower has to be the lilac, the beautiful color and gouregous smell make me look forward to it’s bloom every spring.

    • I do love the lilac too. I can’t think of lilacs without remembering the Nancy Drew mystery I enjoyed so much when I was young (The Lilac Inn). I’ve never had a lilac shrub of my own, but hopefully someday…

  9. What a wonderful subject and I love how you see the daffodil. Open, ready and friendly. I had to give this a think. I love roses but I think an all time favorite is the Amaryllis. Those that smell so heavenly every time you walk by. I love Baby’s Breath and use them to decorate my Christmas tree. It looks like snow in the branches. There are so many I like I don’t know if I can choose but the daffodil does always breakthrough the snow to remind us that spring is definitely coming. I always like to see them.

    • WOW, Baby’s Breath in a Christmas tree — what a great idea! Much prettier than the aerosol canned snow people used to use in the 60’s. At this time of year the Amaryllis bulbs start popping up in stores and I’m always tempted to get one, but never have. In San Antonio we had a single Amaryllis — bright red — that would bloom every year. I always figured someone had gotten it as a gift and transplanted it to the yard. It was right there in the middle of a thick patch of Asian jasmine ground covering, so it really stood out. When the cold winds blow and Christmas is just a memory, remember that the daffodils are packing up and getting ready to visit!

  10. HarryS

    What a beautiful meditation on the lovely daffodil, my dear friend.

    • Thank you, Harry! I’m sending you a virtual bouquet of them. They’ll last a long time in just a little bit of water.

      • HarryS

        Thank you. 🙂
        Thank you. 🙂

        • Harry, you are double welcome! 😀

  11. bobmielke

    Since I photograph so many flower species all through the year picking a favorite is a tough decision. I only started my flower photography 10 years ago upon moving to Oregon. Now in Massachusetts I’ll have to find other sources here in this state. Oregon is such a garden state it won’t be easily even coming close to their prolific varieties of flowers. I would say the bearded lilies are my favorite species. They come up just after the daffodils and come in so many brilliant colors and variations they’re a thrill to photograph.

    • Bob, as beautiful as New England is, you are right about Oregon having the ideal climate for flowers, and it will be hard to beat. You will doubtless be missing it often. But I’m sure you will find some nice gardens to enjoy where you are now, too. Last time we were in Maine, Jeff and I were touring through a gorgeous Bed and Breakfast where the owner was kind enough to give us a tour of the house and gardens even though we didn’t stay there, but just happened on it strolling by. We asked her why the gardens were so fabulously beautiful everywhere we looked, and she said it was because the long winter made people so eager to make the most of the short spring and summer warmth, that a great many of them become avid gardeners. Is a bearded lily the same thing as an iris? That’s Jeff’s mother’s favorite, I think. We have some that I need to transplant, because they aren’t blooming anymore. I think they no longer get enough sun to bloom as they once did. They are gorgeous, and rival orchids for their many intricate shapes. I just know you will find many gorgeous blooms to capture with your camera.

      • bobmielke

        That’s a very good question. I’m not sure I can answer, not being any sort of plant expert. I Googled the two and the images look remarkably similar.

        • Either way, they are beautiful!

  12. The Rose.
    It is among the most beautiful and fragrant.
    The thorns that protrude from its stem remind us that to attain beauty often there is a prerequisite of pain.
    Isn’t that true of life’s journey?
    For before the crown of glory was worn, a crown of thorns had to first be endured.

    • Alan, how true! And there are other aspects of the rose that speak to its symbolism of divinity. I did not realize until I tried to grow them for the first time many years ago, how hardy they are and how little they require of us compared to how much they give back. More recently, I had gotten tired of the continual maintenance I was having to do around our York mailbox, and had a pink rosebush planted there. It immediately took root and grew, blooming profusely, and is still blooming abundantly here in November. Years ago when our roses were adopted by some aphids, I found that few sprays with a mild 10:1 water to dish detergent solution was all it took to get rid of the problem — no harsh or toxic solutions required! When I was pruning recently, there were a few stems bearing buds or barely-opened flowers, and I brought them indoors and put them in some water. When we left to come back, Jeff and I wondered whether to toss them or leave them hoping they would stay pretty. One week later, they were even more beautiful. Two weeks later, they were fading, but still several of them were fresh enough to be saved for yet another week. Amazing! I guess you can tell that I’m quite fond of roses, too. 😀

  13. Ann

    Julia, you must spend an incredible amount of time and thought on this blog…answering every post and including links to relevant information.

    Thank you for Defeat Despair!


    My favorite flower may be the Sunflower, they look so happy🌻🌻🌻

    • Ann, how kind of you to send me such encouragement through your comment here. I do spend a good bit of time on the blog, but the rewards are far greater than the time spent, even lately when it has (of necessity) become a fraction of the amount of time I spent during the first two years following Jeff’s diagnosis. This blog was born after an early morning’s reflection that so many of the people I knew and loved were facing discouraging or even devastating circumstances, and I wanted to find some way for us all to hold hands in the dark. So I feel a deep sense of comfort whenever I connect with someone else in some way through the words and photos I publish here. As for the links, that’s just the frustrated librarian/archivist in me. Someday if I’m able to return to work as a librarian, it will be because of that same drive to connect people with interesting or helpful information, and to share the abundance of helpful resources freely available to all. Here’s a re-run of a happy sunflower photo for you. Thanks for being here!

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