top of page

7 March 2024 : 
The History & Development of the Daffodil
Gwyn Davies

Gwyn Davies shared his passion for daffodils with an entertaining talk calling on his 40 years of  experience growing and showing daffodils, as well as his travels around Europe in search of species daffodils in their native habitat.  

He explained that there is no difference between Narcissi and Daffodils which the audience found surprising.  Gwyn made some recommendations to grow ; 'Carlton' and 'St Cavan' which were both bred in the 1930's.

Gwyn first showed a map of where species daffodils spread over thousands of years - from Iberia through Europe and even to Asia via the trade routes.  The Romans are known to have planted narcissus in memory of loved ones or comrades fallen in battle.  It’s likely they brought daffodils to Britain from the Iberian Peninsula, predominantly Spain and Portugal, where the largest variety of daffodil species are found.

Gwyn showed some great photos from his travels around Santiago de Compostela searching for species daffodils.  He showed tiny native varieties growing in cracks in rocks, as well as fields of wild daffodils.  He talked about the time he took photos of a whole field full of wild narcissi before enjoying lunch in a local restaurant.  When he returned to take some more photos in the afternoon, the farmer had let his cows into the field and they had decimated the daffodils.  Of course, the flowers are edible - it's just the bulbs which are poisonous!

Emperor / Empress were registered in the 1860's and were used as the parents of many of the UK's daffodils.  Gwyn discussed the breeding of the King Alfred daffodil, which has Emperor as one of it's 'parents'.  The original King Alfred daffodil was developed by John Kendall in England at the end of the 19th century. This flower was a "large bloom of rich uniform gold, and thick substance" and was awarded a First-class Certificate by the Royal Horticultural Society. 

The group particularly liked the story of a cultivar which was thought to be lost.  A group of enthusiasts spent 7 years looking for "Weardale Perfection" which was first cultivated by Backhouse, a member of the influential Darlington banking family, at St John's Hall, Wolsingham, in the 1840s.  The breakthrough finally came when the search team was invited to inspect daffodils growing in a tub in retired nurse's garden in Wolsingham.  The group had to wait another year for it to flower - and they were flabbergasted this was the daffodil they were looking for!  Gwyn told the group that what makes "Weardale Perfection" special is its size ; the stem is around 24 inches long with a flower that has a diameter of up to five inches!  Additional bulbs were cultivated by the group and they were re-planted in the churchyard at Wolsingham!

Another fantastic talk from Gwyn!

bottom of page