Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pauvre filles de Sainte Claire

My little gardener has been digging away for a decade without a break. Rain or shine, cold or hot she's always on the job. This is her favorite time of year, when she's surrounded by daffodils. Still, she doesn't look up; her pretty face remains mysteriously dark in the shadows.  Oddly, these daffodils look down modestly as well. 

So, here's the thing. My husband says the flowers are jonquils. I googled them and am still not sure. Some people say jonquil is the term used in the south for daffodils. Others say the difference is in the leaf - broader flat leaves are daffodils and rush-like leaves are jonquils. Still others say that jonquils have to be yellow and must have an aroma. These have no scent. The whole botanical family is Narcissus which besides being hard to spell, I thought was a term reserved only for those bright blue flowers.

Looking further, I found this list of names (from "The Genus Narcissus" edited by Gordon R. Hanks) for daffodils used in the British Isles and some from France:

The popularity of the daffodil in the British Isles is attested by the large number of common names used in various parts of the country Dony et al., 1986; Grigson, 1996; Grieve, 1998). These include: 

Popular name            Place 

Affodil, Affrodil       Cheshire  
Bell-Flowers             Dorset and Somerset  
Bell-Rose                  Somerset  
Butter and Eggs        Devon, Somerset and Northampton  
Churn                       Lancashire  
Cowslip                   Devon  
Cuckoo-Rose           Devon and Somerset  
Daffodil                   England, Scotland, Ireland  
Daffydowndilly       Somerset 
Daffy-down-dilly    Somerset  
Daffydilly                Northamptonshire  
Dillydaffs                 Somerset  
Easter Lily               Devon and Somerset  
Easter Rose             Somerset  
Fairy Bells              Dorset  
False Narcissus       Devon 
Fleur de Coucou      Devon 
Garden Narcissus    Devon 
Giggary                   Devon  
Gylfinog                  Wales  
Gold Bells               Wiltshire 
Golden Trumpets    Somerset 
Gooseflop                Somerset 
Goose-Leek             Isle of Man  
Gracie Daisies        Devon and Somerset 
Gracie Day               Devon 
Hen and Chickens    Devon  
Hoop Petticoats        Dorset  
Jonquil                  Hertfordshire 
Julians                    Hertfordshire 
King's Spear           Somerset  
Lady's Ruffles        Wiltshire  
Lent-Cocks             Devon and Somerset  
Lent Pitchers     Devon and Somerset  
Lent-Rosen     Devon and Somerset  
Lents               Cornwall, Devon, Lancashire 
Lenty Cups     Somerset  
Lent Lily         Cornwall 
Lily                 Scotland  
Narcissus        Norfolk 
Porillon             Norfolk 
Queen Anne's Flowers    Norfolk  
St Peter's Bell     Wales 
Sun-Sonnets       Somerset  
Whit Sunday      Devon 
Wild Daffodil     Yorkshire 
Wild Jonquil         Yorkshire  
Yellow Maidens     Somerset  
Fleur d'asphodèle    France 
Pauvres filles de Sainte Claire   France 

I kind of like the French one "Pauvre filles de Sainte Claire" which translates to "poor girls of Saint Claire". St. Clare, oddly enough, is the patron saint of's a long story. But I could say that my daffodils, my poor girls of St. Claire, are bowing their heads in shame and embarrassment for the deteriorated state of the medium at the moment.  Or they could simply be modesty flowers, bowing in synch with my little girl.


  1. I'm going to call them either gooseflops or len-cocks from now on.
    I love your Pauvre fille.

  2. And the British poets seem to love daffodils too.

    Daffodils" (1804)
    I WANDER'D lonely as a cloud
    That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
    When all at once I saw a crowd,
    A host, of golden daffodils;
    Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
    Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
    Continuous as the stars that shine
    And twinkle on the Milky Way,
    They stretch'd in never-ending line
    Along the margin of a bay:
    Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
    Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
    The waves beside them danced; but they
    Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
    A poet could not but be gay,
    In such a jocund company:
    I gazed -- and gazed -- but little thought
    What wealth the show to me had brought:
    For oft, when on my couch I lie
    In vacant or in pensive mood,
    They flash upon that inward eye
    Which is the bliss of solitude;
    And then my heart with pleasure fills,
    And dances with the daffodils.
    By William Wordsworth (1770-1850).


  3. I hear jonquils and I can't help but think of the play The Glass Menagerie. Was it Laura?

  4. Very funny and nice post!
    Narcissus joquilla is just one among the many hybrids of Narcissus. You can enjoy this query page with your husband :)