By RHEA-FRANCES TETLEY
Spring must be here, as it is defined by the daffodils welcoming residents and visitors to the mountains. They are especially noticed on the curve of Highway 189 coming into Twin Peaks, just before Strawberry Lodge.
Those daffodils are a continuance of the Daffodil Project begun in 1999 by Tony and Julie Greer. Each year, they bought and she planted another 1,000 bulbs.
Because of their higher elevation and slower snow melt, these daffodils often bloom a little later than ones at lower elevations. Those in the direct sunlight bloom sooner, making the area look like it blooms for much longer. More than 50,000 bulbs have been purchased and planted for that project, which encouraged neighbors and others on the mountain to also plant daffodils, since they bring such a bright sunny, golden look to a hillside.
After Julie’s death, her neighbors continued the project for many years, buying the bulbs and planting the flowers in her memory and expanding it into a memorial garden honoring all those who have died from cancer. Over the decades, hundreds of residents and organizations have contributed to that project.
For many years, the signs “Please enjoy but do not pick, planted in memory of cancer victims” were placed among the blooms, but the signs were damaged by rain one winter and have not been replaced. As the years have progressed, some residents have forgotten their memorial legacy.
Hybrid daffodils are planted in the fall and are the first flower to bloom locally in the spring. One of the reasons daffodils are chosen is their ability to bloom year after year, requiring minimal care for their great beauty. Daffodils only require a half-day of sunshine and can live in natural snow and rainfall. Plus, squirrels, deer and chipmunks – and especially those pesky gophers – usually do not bother them, as the bulbs taste bitter to rodents and can be poisonous to animals, so they don’t eat them.
Daffodils bloom during a six-week period of spring each year, with each plant blooming once for a two-week period.
After the 1955 fire in the Running Springs area, beginning in 1958, daffodils have been one of the first indicators of spring in the mountain communities, thanks to Gene Bauer planting her favorite flower in her garden. Soon a whole hillside of daffodils and other spring blooming bulbs was owned and maintained by Dale and Gene Bauer for over five decades. They planted about 500 varieties in many colors and sizes on their five-acre property, creating views of colorful swaths of color. Then, beginning in 1961, they began inviting friends and then the public to come visit their floral spectacular for three weeks each spring.
After the 1970 Bear Fire roared through the area, burning 115 structures, Gene told a Los Angeles Times reporter to come back in spring because “there were 10,000 daffodil bulbs under all that black ash and they’ll come up this spring and it will be beautiful again.”
This “Phoenix arising from the ashes” occurred again after the 1997 Mill Fire. Even after the Old Fire in 2003 devastated much of the Smiley Park area in which they lived, and the Slide Fire in 2007 singed the garden, they were able to reopen in the spring.
After a half-century of tending those large gardens and planting over 1,000,000 bulbs by hand at the rate of 25,000 bulbs a year, they closed the garden to visitors in 2009 so they could take a break from the daily upkeep of the garden.
The Running Springs Soroptimist Club wanted to see the daffodil project continued, but on a wider basis all over the town, since the gardens were now closed, with their “One Million Blooming Daffodils” project. They planted the bulbs along Highway 330 and Highway 18 and all over the area, welcoming visitors to the area each spring.
When they consolidated with the Lake Arrowhead club to become the Soroptimist International of Rim of the World (SIROW), the project was expanded even more by the members planting the bulbs each fall in many public areas, such as in front of fire stations and along roadsides in the Lake Arrowhead area. Plus, they began selling bags of 50 bulbs and boxes of 150 King Alfred, large, trumpet daffodil bulbs to many homeowners and businesses, giving the flowers an even wider distribution with the theme of “Creating a Mountain of a Million Daffodils.” They have sold over 60,000 blubs toward this goal.
For next year’s bulbs, they have begun delivery to homes, said Joyce Patrick, this year’s daffodil chairman for SIROW. “We will be selling King Alfred and Red Devon daffodil bulbs this year,” she said. “Daffodil bulbs are planted in the fall, for spring blooming. By selling the bulbs, we raise funds for our scholarship programs.”
The daffodils bring cheer to all who see them as they bloom each spring, after a long winter. Daffodils are not a native plant to this area, so every one that you see has been purchased and intentionally planted. The saying is, “If you did not plant that flower, you should not pick it,” as wild flowers reseed and the daffodils will bloom again next season, if left alone.
In past years, some bulb thieves have stolen entire gardens, as occurred at Andy Fletcher Triangle Park in Crestline, denying the community the enjoyment of the beautiful blooming gardens created by the Krumweide Eagle Scout project several years ago.
So, enjoy the daffodils and leave them where they were planted for others to also enjoy and help this mountain become a “Mountain of a Million Daffodils.”