Hardy annuals in the nursery of life
U 8.362-8 Hardy annuals he presents her with […] Poor thing! Then having to give the breast year after year all hours of the night.
Gifford ignores the collocation “hardy annuals” altogether, and Slote in the annotations to his edition of Ulysses is mistaken in identifying it as “a journalistic phrase, ‘a stock subject’ (Partridge)”. The intended meaning in Ulysses, extending the metaphor of the nursery (for seedlings and infants) is that of thriving young babies and children, especially those born into a rapidly growing family.
The obvious pun on “a herbaceous plant with a perennial rootstock that can withstand frost; (fig.) something which recurs continually or at regular intervals” (OED) is not Joyce’s. He added it from a notebook to the typescript of the episode in 1921. The humorous metaphorical use of the expression can be traced back to at least 1860:
The sense survived into the 20th century:
Joyce's Words >