The Daffodil Man plants something lasting on a Calistoga Road hillside
By Chris Smith/THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The daffodil man is working his heart out.
Several days a week, the extraordinary Merle Reuser trudges up a steep hillside off Santa Rosa’s Calistoga Road.
Not far from where seniors from neighboring Maria Carrillo High sneak up to brand their class year onto the slope, Merle hoes the outline of a great heart.
Within the approximately 70-foot-high shape, he’s planting daffodils. And in the heart’s wide border, naked-lady bulbs.
“I feel like a packhorse, dragging bulbs up that hill,” said Merle, 64.
So why is he doing it?
Any number of people can tell you Merle has a passion for assisting the spread of daffodils, the yellow beauties that bloom about this time of year and multiply as their hardy bulbs divide. His fascination began when he was a kid in Cloverdale and befriended rancher Margaret Elizabeth Adams.
Daffodils expanded across her place west of Cloverdale for decades. Every spring, Margaret had young Merle carry cut daffodils into town and brighten folks’ lives by passing them around.
Read about one of Merle’s previous efforts here.
Margaret died in 2000 at 104, but her family is happy for Merle to continue cutting and dispensing the ranch’s prolific daffodils. He also harvests bulbs and grows daffodils at several other locations.
He honors Margaret’s memory by giving away cut daffodils and bulbs — thousands of them — each year. Next week he’ll take 150 bouquets with 16 daffodils each to Cloverdale High students as a tribute to late classmate Courtney Davis, who was 16 when a cancer claimed her life early in 2008.
Back to his living-art project on the hill:
Merle obtained the landowners’ permission to hike up there and create a heart whose interior will glow yellow when the daffodils come up in February and whose border will turn pink when the naked ladies flower in August and September.
Merle knows that in time he’ll no longer be able to cut and plant and give away daffodils. He hopes that far beyond that point he will gaze up at his and Margaret’s legacy up on the hill.
“Fifty years from now,” he said, “that heart should still be there.”