In March 1980, we joined the throng that flocks to Granville during one April weekend for the annual Granville Garden Club Daffodil Show.
The show has been a spring tradition since 1945, when the Granville Garden Club decided to cheer up their fellow villagers, all weary from World War II. Club members picked 94 different specimens of daffodils, placed them in bottles down the center of the Granville Public Library’s reading room, put daffodil arrangements in the windows, and invited Granville residents to see the free display. The show has moved to different locations around town, but its purpose remains constant – to encourage the study of classification, hybridization, planting and arrangement of daffodils.
This year, we revived our family tradition and attended the 71st Annual Granville Garden Club Daffodil Show at Bryn Du.
The show’s theme — A Midsummer Night’s Dream – A Greener Earth — encouraged attendees to practice and enjoy the beauty of sustainable gardening. Information sheets were provided on attracting birds, bees and butterflies to a garden, as well as how to create your own herbicides and pest repellants easily and inexpensively.
After strolling through Shakespeare’s Enchanted Wood, we entered the mansion’s large living room, which features mahogany trim, a medallioned ceiling and bookcases filled with examples of all sorts of tantalizing early-20th century bookbindings. The walls were adorned with hand-lettered banners with quotations from Shakespeare plays, such as “When daffodils begin to peer, why then comes in the sweetness of the year,” from Act IV, Scene II of The Winter’s Tale.
Charming miniature flower arrangements were displayed on deep windowsills.
In one room devoted to fairy gardens, a couple of winged fairies channeled Titania and Oberon as they served complimentary homemade cookies and chilled spa water flavored with raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and cucumbers. Other club members took orders for daffodil bulbs that will be available for pickup in October for fall planting. This year’s show specials included Barrett Browning, Grower’s Pride, Brooke Ager, Puppet, Blushing Lady, Tristar, Wisley, x odorus Linnaeus, Candy Princess and Geranium daffodil varieties.
Children gathered on the patio to make a wreath of silk flowers to wear on their heads. Adults joined them to select six daffodils and tie a peach-colored satin ribbon around them to make a complimentary take-home bouquet.
Attending the show also gave us the long-awaited opportunity to explore Bryn Du, the historic Granville landmark that we have only been able to admire from afar.
The property on which the mansion stands was originally known as Fort Hill in 1805. Henry D. Wright, a local general store owner, originally built an Italianate villa on the 52-acre site in 1865, using sandstone quarried from the property. Several other owners followed, including John Sutphin Jones, a successful executive in the railroad and coal industries who purchased the property in 1905. Jones hired Columbus architect Frank Packard to renovate the mansion into a Georgian Federal-style home, construct several outbuildings and create a 32-acre polo field across the front of the site. Jones christened his home Bryn Du, meaning “Black Hills” in Welsh, recalling how the hills behind the house were the source of its sandstone walls. Calvin Coolidge, William Howard Taft, Warren Harding, Lillian Gish, Paderewski and Rachmaninoff all visited Jones at his home.
After Jones died in 1927, his daughter, Sallie Jones Sexton, inherited the property. She preferred breeding and showing horses to operating the firm. In 1976, facing debts estimated at $1.6 million, Sexton divided and sold Bryn Du Farm at a sheriff’s sale. The 52-room mansion was renovated into a restaurant in 1979; ten years later, it became the headquarters of Quest International. Dave Longaberger purchased it in 1995, renovating the estate to include game courts and field house facilities until his death in 1999. In 2002, the village of Granville purchased the property to use for community events.
Watch the Granville Garden Club’s website for information about next year’s Daffodil Show and other upcoming events.