Daffy Time in Newport

As is typical of New England in early April, spring still seems more like a concept than a reality. But don’t worry, the daffodils will make it all better! They are poised and ready to pop, just in time for the annual festival that trumpets their return. There are swaths of them planted in strategic areas around the town, and a significant increase in the amount planted last fall at Castle Hill, to once again delight and inspire visitors and Newporters alike.

The inspiration for a daffodil campaign in Newport started with Scott Wheeler, Tree Warden and Building and Grounds Supervisor for the City of Newport, who was influenced by the daffodils in Inverness, Scotland that brighten up the banks of the Ness River.

Inverness Castle, photo credit: www.canstockphoto.com / jeffbanke


Wheeler started the initiative in Newport in 1998, when it was called Parks in Bloom. The initial planting consisted of 3,300 bulbs which grew to 180,000 over 15 years.  With the aid and vision of Newporter Ron Fleming, Chair of Scenic America, he and Wheeler set their sights on reaching the planting of a million daffodils in Newport – or a Daffodillion! In the past five years, things have really kicked into high gear with retired international ad man, John Hirschboeck, a.k.a. “Daffy John”, heading up the project and organizing the festival.

184,750 daffodil bulbs were planted in Newport last fall, bringing the daffy tab to 867,500 blooming daffodils this spring. Just 132,500 more and Wheeler, Fleming and Hirscboeck will have their daffodillion, to the great benefit of our early spring land and seascapes.

The Newport Daffodil Days Festival – or “Daffy Days” – features a retail window display contest, a daffy doggie parade, several events for children, and a classic car parade. You can check out all the events at www.newportdaffydays.com.

At Castle Hill, the daffodils are just the beginning. With the return of our staff horticulturalist, Leita Lord, there will be plenty of interesting things sprouting from the ground. She will be contributing to the blog from time to time to show and tell you all about them. Soon, the culinary garden program will be providing the freshest ingredients, grown right here on property, to enhance the offerings of our restaurants and bars. Now, when I look at those daffodils I will think of all the nutritious and delicious produce to come.

The skies above are clear again, so let’s sing a song of cheer again. Daffy days are here again!

– Shea C Nelson