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The Daffodil Man plants something lasting on a Calistoga Road hillside

Friday, February 24th, 2012 | Posted by



The daffodil man is working his heart out.

Merle Reuser's heart of flowers is taking shape well up a Calistoga Road hillside.

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.


Cloverdale High students distribute the daffodils that Merle brought to school to honor the memory of Courtney Davis in 2009, the year after she died. (Photo by John Burgess)

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.”

  • Michael

    I live in Rincon Valley and have to look out onto a huge white cross every day. I sure wish my view was of the heart. A much friendlier image.

    • suzanne

      agree….I would rather see the heart. Actually, I would rather people leave hillsides alone.

  • Mary Jo Winter

    Another born-and-bred Cloverdalian making a different. So proud of you, Merle.

  • Delores Haight

    What a wonderful and caring gesture ….
    …. and such a lovely way to instill Love and Sharing, into the young hearts and minds of the local high school students …. I commend you … I thank You and I hope one day to see the fruits of your efforts in bloom………… BLESS YOU !

  • http://www.anncarranzacreations.com Ann Carranza

    Precious gift to all those who experience the love.

  • Nancy Lucas

    This just shows what living in a special community brings to more than the people who live here. Talk about branching out… Everyone has the chance to do something special, it is the choice that makes the difference. Thank you Merle for your choice.

  • Catharine Davis

    He is such a wonderful and caring person. We appreciate so much his tribute to our daughter, Courtney. My husband and I are thankful to have grown up here ourselves and to have always been a part of this special community. Merle Reuser has a heart of gold and we are very fortunate to know him and call him friend.

  • M. L. Carle

    I love daffodils too, but we do have native wildflowers which the planting of daffodils may impinge upon. So I hope that where Merle plants daffodils there aren’t any of our gorgeous native orchids, calochortus or rare plants being displaced. Maybe Merle’s goodhearted work should stop with him.
    M.L. Carle

    • R. Frojd

      The hills or road sides that these daffodils are planted, no other flowers grow there, at least in the areas that I have seen them, only grass.

  • paula oandasan

    good for him. i love daffodils, too. read the poem “i wandered lonely as a cloud”..a true homage to the lovely little cheery flower. one of my favorite poems.

  • Rosemarie Dalton

    Merle is a wonderful man who brings sunshine & daffodils to so many people. What a blessing he is to those of us who have lost loved ones, & received his flowers that have brightened our day,…You see the daffodil is the flower of HOPE & thats what the bouquets that he gives away brings into the lives of cancer patients like our daughter Kathy and our entire family…Kathy passed two years ago February fifth after a ten year battle with breast cancer…I can’t think of a better tribute to her and all the other women who have lost their battle to this horrible disease…I can’t wait for that heart to appear…let the other native plants surround and highlight his labors of love…May the youth of our community carry on this project for ever…Thank you Merle and my God continue to bless you and your family…Blessings

  • Dale Ho

    Good job Ruza If ypu need help hauling stuff up the mountain just let me know

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