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
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
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
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
Perhaps something similar can be said for prize-winning
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
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.