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Spring Remembers
3/5/2018 2:03:56 PM
Spring Remembers

Local couple shares their adventure in daffodils and living the country life

One might say yellow is Beth Fontenot’s signature color . . . daffodil yellow, to be precise. Her love affair with daffodils began when Beth was a child. She recalls springtime visits to her grandma’s home near Gibsland, Bienville Parish. "My grandmother loved her daffodils; one variety especially that she called ‘buttercups.’”

In Gibsland, daffodils are a big deal. The trend blossomed around 1920 when Ms. Annie Lou Holstun began cultivating and selling daffodil bulbs around the Gibsland community. People like Beth’s grandmother planted the bulbs by the thousands. "Consequently, you see them growing in random places where houses once stood or in the yards of the old homes in the area,” Beth says. "I like to say, ‘Spring remembers’ when I see flowers growing around what was obviously once the foundation of a building.”

Twenty years ago, to celebrate Gibsland’s favorite flower, the folks in this ‘daffodil capital of Louisiana’ started the Jonquil Jubilee, a one-day festival held the first Saturday of each March. Over the years, the festival has been responsible for over a million bulbs planted in the area around Gibsland. 

Beth and her husband Steve live in Lake Charles, but in 2014, they began building a second home on 32 acres near Gibsland; part of a larger tract of land that has been in her mother’s family since the 1800s. The couple first erected a metal building -- half shop, half living quarters – which they lived in while building what Beth calls her new "old” farmhouse. "I wanted to design a farmhouse that looked like it had always been there. We looked at the homes in the community of Mt. Lebanon, La, just south of Gibsland, where there are several houses on the National Register of Historic Places, and I chose one whose exterior I wanted to emulate. It was only after we were well along into the building process that I learned the house I used as my inspiration was once my great-grandparents’ home! It made [our new home] all the more special. I must have succeeded with achieving the ‘always been there’ look because during the construction I was asked by a painter if we were remodeling an old barn. I’ve also been asked where we moved the house from.” 

Beth and Steve furnished their country home with antiques collected over the years, renovated vintage furniture, and salvaged wood, windows, and other features. The house has a large front and back porch floored with tongue and groove boards, complete with rockers and a porch swing, and of course, the porch ceilings are painted ‘haint blue.’ The living quarter side of the original metal building is now their guest house. "When our children and grandchildren (the couple has three children and eight grandchildren) come to visit, they have their own space. They sleep in the barn, as it has come to be known,” says Beth.

Not surprisingly, Beth and Steve are all in with the local daffodil trend. She says they planted 250 daffodil bulbs their first year on the property. And that was only the beginning. "My cousin, who is 89 years old, has planted over 40,000 bulbs in his yard, and I began purchasing them wholesale with him the second year. I bought 1,500 bulbs of different varieties that year. The third year we added about 1,000, and last fall I ordered about 750, but my cousin gave me buckets and buckets of bulbs he had dug up and divided from his yard, too. Friends have let us go on their property and dig bulbs. We have gone way back in the woods where houses once stood and ‘rescued’ bulbs that had multiplied to the point where they no longer bloomed. The Jonquil Jubilee committee has also provided us with some bulbs since our place is on their driving tour. So, I would say in all, we have planted close to 5,000 bulbs at our place. With approximately eight acres of cleared land on the property, we plan to continue expanding our daffodil plantings.”

Beth says the past three and a half years have been a dream come true. "We feel very grateful to God that we’ve been entrusted with this little slice of heaven on earth. My goal for the place has and continues to be to make my grandparents proud. I know they are watching and hopefully approving of what we’re doing on land they worked so hard to acquire.”
  • Jonquil is often used as a synonym for daffodil, though in reality, it is a variety of daffodil.
  • There are over 25,000 varieties of daffodils, but not all will grow in Louisiana. When planting daffodil bulbs in Louisiana, be sure the variety is one that grows well in this region. Check with the LSU Ag Center.
  • Daffodils are generally hardy in cold weather and will tolerate a good amount of frost and freezing temperatures. 
  • Daffodils contain a poison that mammals won’t eat, so deer and other critters won’t bother the bulbs or flowers.
  • Once daffodils bloom, you must let the foliage die on its own and not cut or mow it down. Next year’s flowers depend on this year’s green foliage.
Posted by: Angie Kay Dilmore | Submit comment | Tell a friend

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