Local native Holly Shai continues her mother's legendary passion for bulbs.

Early each spring, Granville resident Holly Shai eagerly anticipates the spring bulb blooms throughout her hometown and in her own backyard. It’s a reminder that her mother, the late Jill Griesse, was an American Daffodil Society legend who grew thousands of daffodils at her family home and shared her passion with many others in the charming Licking County community and beyond.

“Granville has benefited from its love affair with the daffodil for decades and decades as evident with all the landscape and medians dotted with daffodils,” says Shai. “I don’t know too many people in Granville without them.”

Since Griesse’s death in 2014, Shai has kept her mother’s gardening legacy alive with an All-American daffodil display garden in the center of town, an annual garden tour and a bounty of spring bulbs planted at her own home just outside the town. It’s a legacy started even before Griesse’s time, by the Granville Garden Club that will celebrate its 75th Daffodil Show this spring. The garden club adopted Griesse when she was first getting started with her daffodil collection, but the legendary springtime gardener grew one of the biggest collections around. More than once in her lifetime she announced that she had to stay in Ohio during the winter for fear of missing the emergence of her lovely garden.

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For two decades, Griesse planted thousands of daffodils at her and husband Paul’s Victorian home and 52-acre farm in Granville. Her passion for the flower seeded a lifetime of joy. She served on the American Daffodil Society’s board and chaired two national conferences. She also invited many to visit the farm and hosted an annual “Daffodil Stroll” fundraiser for several years that benefited Granville’s Robbins Hunter Museum.

Shai lovingly recalls driving the golf cart among the farm’s thousands of daffodils and stopping to gather bundles of the golden blooms.

“There’s a lot of joy in sharing the garden and that was one of mom’s greatest joys,” says Shai. “She not only invited people to tour around the garden but encouraged them to pick bundles to take home.”

When Griesse was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in September 2012, she already had committed to serve as chair for the American Daffodil Society’s national conference in Columbus in April 2013. Thus, Shai and others stepped in to assist her mom with conference events including garden tours and a finale dinner party at the farm—plus an additional benefit for the Robbins Hunter Museum two nights later.

Since Griesse’s death, the museum’s board, the local garden club and others created the Jill Griesse Historic Garden at the museum’s 177-year-old Greek Revival home in the middle of town. (The group also hosts a garden tour around town to raise funds.) The museum’s garden was designed by Laura Burchfield, a local landscape architect and co-author of “American Home Landscapes.” It was installed in 2015 and features many of Griesse’s daffodils as well as a Grecian-style garden folly donated by former Denison University president Dale Knobel and wife, Tina. The garden is sanctioned as one of the American Daffodil Society’s 25 display gardens across the country.

Shai served as the chair for the museum’s 2019 garden tour and opened the gardens at her home as part of it. Not surprising, Shai and her husband Park have amassed a major collection of spring bulbs on their 26-acre property. After visiting Keukenhof gardens and tulips fields in Amsterdam in spring 2016, the Shais were “blown away” by the bulb displays and returned home inspired to plant tulips in their own landscape. Like Griesse, they have been annually adding thousands of the spring bulbs, ever since.

“Last fall, we bought up all the tulip bulbs we could find and filled the back of our car,” says Shai who had them planted in the center of their circular drive. “It will be a definite blessing for sure.”