Faces in the daffodils

The green expanse of the Edgar Centre floor is an artificial turf, meant to stimulate, somewhere in the brain, memories of lawn. Lawn, in real life so often spring-loaded with daffodils. Therefore it was apt to hold the World Daffodil Convention at this vast nylon-scented indoor sports venue.

The centre last weekend played host to thousands of the golden blooms. Ten thousand saw I at a glance, at a guess, but maybe not that many.

Good folk were selling them, the cut bunches stacked high, and also displaying them in never-ending lines of competition pots.

Best in show: Moon Shadow, grown by Denise McQuarrie, of Ngatimoti, up near Motueka. I thought Moon Shadow was all right, but fell in love with Pacific Waves, gazing at me in triplicate, mesmerising as peach-and-orange windmills. (Technically, according to the world daffodil colour-coding system, that would be orange-orange, or O-O, windmills.)

I looked at other blooms. Phuket was tropical-looking with a flouncy yellow cup. Danger was tame, but perhaps deceptively so. Trumpet Warriors should have their own part in a ballet, in which they march on and overthrow the tulip junta. And Yeah, a shrugging white-white bloom, well, you had to agree with Yeah.

Yet for me nothing compared to Pacific Waves. Daffseek.org describes it thus: "Very round flower with soft orange tones in the petals and small bright orange cup." So dreamy, so beautiful.

So like a face? After giving some thought to why I might fixate upon a particular variety, and in general why humans have so much devotion for the genus Narcissus that we would hold a World Daffodil Convention, I hypothesise it is because daffodils, more so than many flowers, look like faces. They stimulate, somewhere in the brain, memories of people. And not baddies, either: we feel warmth and affection for daffodils, rather than wanting to flee them.

I have done my reading on this. The New York Times said it doesn't take much for humans to see faces where there are none, such as here :-) and here :-o and in the singe marks of toasted sandwiches. In fact, scientists have found we have special brain cells dedicated solely to face recognition.

See a daffodil, see an approximate oval with ears, and a nose in the middle. See Pacific Waves and think it is someone special. No wonder daffies cured Wordsworth's cloud-like loneliness.

Perhaps something similar can be said for prize-winning cabbages.

I attended the convention with a woman who had a baby in a pram. We spent the earlier part of our time inspecting the bonsais and the vegetables in separate regional contests.

"See, now what makes a champion cabbage?" she had asked. "I mean sometimes you can tell one's a winner before you see the first-prize certificate alongside, but what makes it so?"

The champion cabbage was seated beside a champion cauliflower. The cabbage was about the size and shine of a human head, and was purple-red, not too far from a conceivable flesh tone. The cauliflower was also about the size of a human head; one with the perfect white curls of an old person.

I put to my companion that, maybe, being head-like is the mark of a good cabbage. She did not seem convinced. We moved on to the rhubarb. Now what makes for a rhubarbian best in show I do not know.