24 Apr Daffodils in Ashland: Profusion of spring color
Exceptional daffodil spots in Ashland.
Mountain Meadows: more than 20,000!
Carol Walker: 28 years planting daffodils!
Joe Riddell: “mystery man” daffodil planter!
Photo essay published in 2023.
From March to April is daffodil time in Ashland. Many of us plant daffodils. They bring cheery bright yellow springtime color to our yards and our town – and they are deer resistant.
I want to feature three people have gone “above and beyond” when it comes to planting daffodils.
- Lee Bowman (with many collaborators) at Mountain Meadows.
- Carol Walker and her color-filled yard at Liberty and Holly Streets.
- Joe Riddell, the “mystery man” who plants daffodils on Van Ness Avenue.
Mountain Meadows: thousands of daffodils!
Go now! Go for a walk in Mountain Meadows this week and you will see bright yellow blooms everywhere. If you wait a week or two, they will be past their peak bloom.
I walked through Mountain Meadows with Lee Bowman on April 3, 2023. When I asked how the daffodil planting began, he replied: “About 8 or 9 years ago, one of our residents named Eva (who passed away last year), came up with an idea. She thought the green lawn in front of our clubhouse was too dull. She proposed, ‘Why don’t we plant spring bulbs in there?’ She came to me, and we got permission from the Board. That year, I found bulbs on sale and we planted about 500, all around the Clubhouse lawn area.”
From that humble beginning of 500 bulbs, the number planted each fall and winter has grown year by year. It increased the second year to 800, then 2,000 bulbs for several years, the 5,000 bulbs for two years in a row – then, last year, 8,000 bulbs were planted! The total since the project began is now well beyond 20,000 daffodil bulbs that have been planted in the 27 acres of Mountain Meadows!
Kitchen Creek restoration
A small creek called Kitchen Creek runs through Mountain Meadows and joins Bear Creek on the west side of North Mountain Avenue. For years, it was filled with blackberry bushes – very healthy ones. Lee pointed and said, “We are in the fourth year of a major creek restoration project. The blackberries were so high that if you were here three years ago, you would not have been able to see those houses over there [on the other side of the creek from where we were standing].” Through persistence, and a grant that allowed Mountain Meadows to hire some help for the blackberry removal, we walked along a creek without a blackberry bush in sight – though I could see a shoot coming up from the ground here and there. Drought-tolerant shrubs, grasses and pollinator plants are being planted and nurtured along the creek. Most of the lawn areas are being replaced with meadow wildflower mixes and more drought-tolerant grasses.
As I was taking photos of the lush daffodil blooms near the Mountain Meadows sign by North Mountain Avenue, Lee surprised me. He said something like, “Come look over here. You can see where we planted lots of daffodil bulbs on this level area around the sign.”
He continued, “Now look downhill from there towards the creek. Do you see those clumps of daffodils downhill? We didn’t plant them. The squirrels planted them somehow, digging up bulbs from here and then putting them back in the ground down there.”
I was already having a great time listening to Lee’s stories and seeing so much colorful springtime beauty bursting out of the ground all around me, but this squirrel daffodil planting story really made my day and had me chuckling to myself for days afterward.
Carol Walker’s daffodil paradise
“I want all the goodness to go back into the bulb.”Carol Walker
If you want to see what many years of patient planting can bring to one front yard, take a walk (or a drive) to the corner of Liberty Street and Holly Street. If you go this week, they will probably still be at their prime. Or you could make a note in your calendar to come view them next year in March.
I first met Carol Walker as I was walking the neighborhood in 2018. At the time, she explained to me that she had started planting daffodil bulbs 24 years ago. She liked them so much that she has continued to plant a few more every year since then, as well as separating the older clumps of bulbs.
Carol told me her secret was to dead-head the flowers as soon as they stop blooming. She told me: “I want all the goodness to go back into the bulb.”
The “mystery” daffodils on Van Ness Avenue
This is what Van Ness Avenue, near Oak Street along the railroad tracks, used to look like.
Van Ness Avenue is now bursting with spring colors, thanks to all the daffodils that have been planted during the past eight years. Now (April 24, 2023), they are fading, so make a note on your calendar to walk Van Ness in March or early April of next year.
“I have repeatedly delighted in the beauty of fall in Ashland and doubt there is anything I can do to enhance it. But I am glad to be able to add to the beauty of its spring.”Joe Riddell
How the story began
The story of these “mystery” daffodils began this way, according to Joe. “When I was 32 years old and had few responsibilities, I began an extended vacation out West. In late September I paddled my inflatable kayak (an orange Tahiti) for a week-long solo trip down the wild and scenic Rogue. In a chance encounter with a river guide, he asked what I planned to do after the river trip. I replied that I didn’t have a lot of money for gas but was not in a hurry to get back to Texas. He told me I should check out Ashland, describing it as a friendly town with hippies, a college, and a food coop. On an early October day, I visited Ashland and immediately fell in love with its beauty. I soon came to appreciate its people and culture.”
Before daffodil planting came thistle pulling
Many years later, after a career and marriage and family life, Ashland became a second home for Joe between the months of July and November. As he walked or bicycled along Van Ness Avenue between Water and Oak Streets, he felt a pull to clean it up. Occasionally picking up trash led to several years of digging and pulling out nasty, prickly yellow star thistle weeds each year, beginning in 2013.
Daffodil bulbs on sale at Bi-Mart
Joe described the day he transitioned from pulling weeds to planting flowers. “One day in the fall of 2015 I was shopping at Bi-Mart and happened to see daffodil bulbs on sale. I realized that the sunny south-facing area along Van Ness would make a good place to plant them. I bought a couple packages–maybe 30 bulbs, and planted them in a couple spots.”
A bit like Lee Bowman at Mountain Meadows and Carol Walker on Holly Street, planting a few daffodil bulbs one year led to planting more and more in the years to come. Joe began to buy hundreds of bulbs in bulk from a wholesale catalog in 2017.
By 2021, he got serious and dug a ditch 6 inches deep and 6 inches wide along the curb, then mixed in some organic soil conditioner from the Ashland Grange Co-op with the hard soil. Two of his rafting friends helped with the muscle work.
People out for walks along Van Ness thanked Joe for his voluntary beautification efforts. I first noticed and stopped to admire the daffodils along Van Ness Avenue in 2021. I asked my friends, “Do you know who planted them?” – and no one knew. I noticed more flowers there in 2022, and even more this March of 2023. The mystery was bugging me. Finally, I asked the hundreds of people on my email list if anyone knew the “mystery person” who was planting these daffodils. Some of my readers had talked with the “mystery person,” but no one knew his name. At last a tip came in that led me to a phone call with Joe, who at this time of the year is living at his Texas home. I was afraid that he might want to remain anonymous. In fact, he recently shared his story in the newsletter of the North West Rafters Association, which is where I pulled some quotes for this photo essay.
Joe enjoys Ashland’s fall colors the most. As he put it in his words: “I have repeatedly delighted in the beauty of fall in Ashland and doubt there is anything I can do to enhance it. But I am glad to be able to add to the beauty of its spring.”
Thank you, Joe and Lee and Carol and everyone else who co-creates with Mother Nature and adds to the beauty of our community.
Many more daffodils!
Yes, there are many more exceptional daffodil plantings around town. Feel free to mention one of your favorites in the Comments section below.
Bowman, Lee. Interview and Mountain Meadows walk, April 2023.
Riddell, Joe. Interview April 2023.
Riddell, Joe. “Daffodils along Van Ness Avenue in Ashland,” NWRA NEWS (North West Rafters Association Newsletter), February 2023.
Walker, Carol. Conversations in 2018 and other years.