“To Plant A Garden, Is To Believe in Tomorrow.”
From Bille Park to the library, Terry Ashe Park to Skyway, and many homes in between, daffodils are once again rising from their winter sleep to spread hope and happiness across the Ridge.
Last November, the Paradise Town Council voted to adopt the daffodil as the official flower of the Town of Paradise. To commemorate the occasion, the Town, Adventist Health, and Deja Vu Gardens Galore Nursery sponsored a daffodil bulb giveaway–the results of which we’re seeing all around town today.
But these bulbs weren’t enough to account for the thousands of beautiful yellow daffodils popping up this month. Where did they all come from?
The story starts in the early 300s B.C.
Originally, daffodils, a member of the narcissus family, most likely became garden plants around 300 B.C. Theophrastus, a Greek botanist and philosopher, identified many of the narcissus species in his nine-volume “Enquiry into Plants.” Originally from northern Europe, the flowers were brought to Britain by Romans in hopes of using their sap (which we now know to cause skin irritation) for healing.
Daffodils are one of the first flowers to bloom each spring, bringing with them a cheery color and hardy nature. For this reason, they’ve long been a symbol of hope, rebirth, and new beginnings.
Fast forward to 2001. After the tragedy of 9/11, the nonprofit group New Yorkers for Parks launched The Daffodil Project, a city-wide bulb-planting project to flood the city with hope and remembrance. Today, the group and its volunteers have planted over 7 million bulbs since the start of the project.
When Jayne Engels, Paradise resident and avid gardener, heard about the daffodil project a few years later, she realized she wanted to do something similar for the Town. Having survived a severe form of cancer, she realized she wanted to do something to bring hope and happiness to the town in the same way her garden had brought her joy during her own darkest days.
In 2008, she was chosen as the Paradise Garden Club’s chairperson for the beautification committee, where she was able to share her vision of a town covered in daffodils. Alongside support from the club, Engels found community encouragement in the form of Dan and Rhonda Kennedy, who owned the storage units on Elliot and Skyway. The Kennedys had a soft spot for the flower themselves, with over a million of them on their home property and many at their storefront. “They matched all the money I gathered that year for buying more bulbs,” said Engels. “Dan also contributed one of his workers to help me, a truck, storage space for thousands of bulbs we bought.”
Engels and her team envisioned planting an initial 3,000 bulbs that first year, but the project quickly expanded after the devastating Humboldt Fire in summer of 2008. Toting her photo of a “To Plant a Garden is to Believe in Tomorrow” sign to the next club meeting following the fire, Engels and the garden finalized their mission for the project: “The vision,” she said, “was no longer just to bring warmth to the soul after the dreary winter, it was also to bring hope for the future. If we can plant a garden of daffodils, there will be a tomorrow.”
From there, the project exploded across the Ridge, with volunteers, community members, and garden club participants planting bulbs all across Paradise, Magalia, Concow, and the surrounding areas. “Somedays, we would plant 4000, 5000 bulbs in a day!” she said.
In true Paradise spirit, much of the community jumped in. The Parks and Recreation department provided space and personpower to plant, members of the Garden Club sorted bulbs, the news did segments about the program, and individuals offered donations and purchases. They gave out bags of daffodils at the cancer center for those undergoing treatment and put out pots of daffodils at Feather River Hospital and at the clinic on Skyway.
“We really wanted to do something to encourage people and remind them things were going to be better.”
Engels was awarded an Elks Citizen of the Year award for her work with the project. The Paradise Garden Club eventually took over when she had to step away, but carried on her vision with a result of over 130,000 daffodils planted across the Ridge.
We called the project “Daffodils Across the Ridge” because we didn’t want to leave anyone out,” recalled Engels. “It’s one community – you might have a different government, but it’s still the Ridge.”
Today, Engels is proud to see the daffodil tradition come to life again with the daffodil giveaways and the introduction of the town flower. She envisions a future where the daffodil becomes a true symbol of Paradise reborn, perhaps with a spring flower festival to draw in visitors and unite and grow local businesses.
Daffodil season, said Engels, “is just a joyful time! It’s such a wonderful way to show the world that Paradise is not just rebuilding structure, but we’re rebuilding hope. The flowers are a living memorial that we can survive, and we can do this.”
A big thank you to everybody who shared their own daffodil pictures on Facebook over the past few weeks! We gathered some of them together in the gallery below — enjoy!