I came to the T.C. Steele State Historic Site early last spring, after working for many years at Brown County State Park. At first, everything seemed different — the scale, the pace, the historic aspect. Then I answered my first phone call from someone wondering when the daffodils would peak.
Starting around September, Brown County State Park receives numerous calls like this from people asking about ‘peak’ fall color, so I was slightly amused by the daffodil question. Then they began to bloom. Fall color vistas and our ‘sweeping drifts of daffodils’ may differ in scale, but I learned that they rate the same on the WFS (Wow Factor Scale).
After her move to Brown County in 1907, inspired by the abundance of wildflowers around her, Selma Steele made plans to ‘naturalize’ flowers over the hillsides surrounding her new home. She wrote in her memoir, The House of the Singing Winds,
A day came when I set out, as a first experiment, a handful of Scotch daffodils. Now … this bulb garden covers many of the hillsides. There are many varieties, blooming virtually by the thousands and thousands*, contributing an unearthly and elusive beauty to the landscape, all enveloped in the soft atmosphere of springtime.
Well I won’t even try to top that description. Why not visit and see the results of Selma Steele’s plan? You could call ahead to find out the perfect day to see the most spectacular show of spring color, but why bother? Selma planted such a variety and abundance of flowers that even if the daffodils aren’t ‘peaking’, something else surely is.
*Perhaps Carl Sagan read The House of the Singing Winds.
Davie Kean is the master gardener at the T.C. Steele State Historic Site.