Daffodils: A Bright & Colourful History

Daffodil history blog header

Daffodils are THE spring bloom. Their bright yellow trumpets are recognisable across the globe, and no spring display is complete without them.

As you can imagine, they have always been a staple seasonal flower. The rich daffodil’s history even precedes the Romans, dating back to 300 BC. These powerful perennials can withstand harsh winters, are pest resistant, and look fabulous in any arrangement. But where did their long reign begin?

We’ve delved into the humble daffodil’s history, opening the historical window to one of the most popular bulbous blooms in the UK.

Echo & Narcissus

Echo and Narcissus at the pond

Daffodils, or Narcissi, indeed have a rich history. What’s most known is the Greek mythological story of ‘Narcissus and Echo’.

(Left Image: Echo and Narcissus by John Waterhouse)

As the legend recalls, Echo was a mountain nymph and had been recognised by the Greek gods for her natural beauty. Zeus particularly found her useful in distracting his wife, Hera, when participating in other affairs. Echo would talk to Hera for hours, giving Zeus plenty of time to escape from her watchful eye.

Eventually, Hera caught on to the Nymphs role in her husband’s activities. Enraged, the goddess cursed Echo to never again have a voice of her own, only able to repeat the last words that were spoken to her.

Echo sculpture, Labyrinth Park
Echo in the Grove of Narcissus & Echo. Labyrinth Park, Barcelona.

Distraught, Echo wandered into the outskirts of ancient Boeotia, where she set eyes on the handsome Narcissus. Narcissus was considered impossibly attractive and is believed to be one among the most beautiful mortals, with a face that rivalled the likes of Hyacinthus and Adonis.

Although Narcissus was blessed with otherworldly good looks, it came at a price. A blind seer prophesied that he could only remain attractive if he stayed humble. He was told to never look upon his reflection, lest he falls into despair.

As Echo observed Narcissus, she fell deeper and deeper in love. She longed to call to him but could only wait till Narcissus spoke. He cruelly rejected Echo when she eventually emerged and ran away from her into the depths of the forest.

“Good-bye, my love!”

Said Narcissus to his reflection, and in turn, Echo to Narcissus.
a daffodil history

Eventually, Narcissus was overcome by thirst and stopped by a pond. He laid on his stomach and leaned over the edge of the water, only to be met with the eyes of the most beautiful man he had ever seen.

Overcome with emotion, Narcissus tried to kiss the reflection but was met with water. Eventually, he realised the reflection was his own and fell into a deep depression. As Echo watched over him, Narcissus began to waste away until he, eventually, felt himself fading to death. His last words were to his reflection; “Goodbye, my love!” he cried. “Goodbye, my love.” Echo whimpered in return.

Nymphs searched for his body, but in its place, they found a beautiful flower. Its head was white, its trumpet orange, and henceforth it was known as the Narcissus.

Echo, distraught over the loss of her love, retreated to her mountain cave until she wasted away. Eventually, all that remained was her voice, which was doomed to repeat only the last words of whoever entered.

A European Favourite Since 300BC

The name ‘Daffodil’ actually comes from the Dutch phrase ‘affo dyle’. Translated, this means ‘that which comes early’.

Daffodils were cultivated in gardens from as early as 300 BC. Historically, these blooms could be found in areas of Europe, North America and North Africa. This heritage makes them incredibly hardy, surviving harsh weather conditions that you’d find in the early spring months.

The first recorded mention of daffodils was written by a Greek botanist in his book famously titled ‘Enquiry into Plants’.

Daffodils Were Smuggled into Britain

Romans brought daffodils to Britain

Throughout the daffodil’s history, different cultures would share their knowledge of the seasonal bulb. In fact, Roman soldiers were the first to introduce Britain to daffodils.

They believed that the sap of the flower had healing powers. We now know that daffodil sap does the opposite of heal and can cause skin irritation.

Britain is home to just one native daffodil out of thousands of cultivars. Commonly known as the Lent Lily, this classic bloom produces thin yellow flowers that are centred around a large and in charge trumpet.

However, it wasn’t until the 19th century that we started to see gardeners take advantage of the humble daffodil. The movement started in Cornwall, but the conditions were slightly too warm for the daffodil bulbs. Farmers soon realised that they had better results when bulbs were grown up north. Subsequently, daffodil farmers started to buy lands between Lincolnshire and Scotland to take advantage of the colder climates.

According to Heritage Calling, over 90% of Daffodils are grown and sold in Britain to this day.

William Wordsworth – The Daffodil Love Letter

William Wordsworth's Cottage in Cumbria in relation to daffodils history

Inspired by carpets of daffodils when strolling by Ullswater in the Lake District, William Wordsworth penned these immortal words.

(Left Image: Dove Cottage, Grasmere. Wordsworth’s home in Cumbria.)

FOR oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the DAFFODILS.


I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud by William Wordsworth

The Lake District is home to carpets of native daffs. These blooms can be seen in woodlands and around lakes through the early spring months. In 2003, the Grasmere community built the St. Oswald Daffodil Garden to raise money for the church. This garden is inspired by Wordsworth’s poem, and excerpts can be seen around the grounds.

Sold on the Streets of London

Daffodils history and the london flower girls
Pictured: A young girl selling daffodils in London. 
Photo Credit: Coram in the care of the Foundling Museum

The early 19th century saw the start of the bloom boom. Extravagant flowers and plants were too expensive for the average person, and people profited off selling common crops that could be found in nearby parks and woodlands.

Children as young as ten years old could be found selling seasonal flowers on the streets of London to walkers-by. For many, selling flowers was their sole source of income and could only bring home around 1s 6d (one shilling and sixpence). In today’s money, this is worth around £5.86. However, this wasn’t enough to live on, and many went without food, water, or shelter.

Some of their favourite flowers to sell were the cheapest and most commonly found. This included daffodils, violets, pansies, and many more.

The Symbol of Spring

daffodils history as a spring symbol

Even when you take the daffodil’s history out of the equation, these flowers are still considered a spring favourite across the globe.

They’re even described as the ‘herald of spring’, as they’re one of the first flowers to bloom after winter.

In fact, Daffodils aren’t just a spokesperson for spring. In many cultures, these seasonal blooms can represent a myriad of connotations. For example, in China, daffodils represent good fortune and positive events, which is why it’s used as a symbol for Chinese New Year.

Throughout Europe’s medieval period, daffodils had a more sinister interpretation. It was believed that if you gazed upon a drooping daffodil, it signified your impending death. Cheerful, right

Luckily this is no longer believed, and the humble daffodil remains a symbol of good health, fortune, and happiness.


buy daffodil bulbs from our website

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how to plant daffodil bulbs blog
new daffodils and narcissus for spring 2021 blog

Christmas Gift Inspiration

Heads up – Christmas is just 76 sleeps away! Although it sounds like more than enough time to plan your pressies, its also only 11 Fridays till the big day. Seems a lot sooner now, right?

Thankfully that still gives us ample time to grow our indoor flowering bulbs. These beautiful blooms are often found in spring gardens, but with some persuading they can appear just in time for Secret Santa!

Amaryllis

Amaryllis are well-known for their indoor growing abilities. Very few indoor bulb species can grow to the height and volume of amaryllis, making them an impressive gift to any floral enthusiast.

Even if their blooms don’t appear in time for Christmas, the promise of a single bud will be more than enough to keep your garden-fiend friends entertained for months.

Shop our selection of indoor-flowering Amaryllis here.

Daffodils

The ever impressive indoor daffodil can be enjoyed even earlier than your average spring-flowering outdoor varieties!

From the most notable Narcissi Paperwhite to other classic blooms, your friends and family can now enjoy the cheerful colour of the reliable daffodil in the thick of winter.

Browse our range of indoor flowering daffodils here.

Hyacinths

Hyacinths are classic indoor flowering bulbs. These fragrant and showy blooms make for an impressive display, whether in the spring or forced in winter.

That being said, they’re not the plant to give those who have pets as they can cause some harm if ingested. However, they are still perfectly safe to grow inside, giving you months of enjoyment.

Shop our entire selection of indoor flowering Hyacinths here.

Read more from J. Parker’s

How to Plant Daffodil Bulbs

Daffodils are a gardeners bread and butter for the spring season. These easy to grow, sensational blooms can transform the garden in the early months of spring, adding carpets of colour to your displays.

If you’re new to gardening, or simply need a refresh on how to plant your daffodil bulbs, then you’re in the right place.

When to Plant Daffodils

Your daffodil bulbs can be planted from late August, right through to late December. In fact, our very own Chris Parker often doesn’t get round to planting his bulbs until early January with impressive results.
 

The key to late planting is storing your bulbs correctly. If you choose not to plant bulbs once received, try to store them in a cool and dry place so they remain in good condition until planting day!

How to Plant Daffodil Bulbs

Daffodils are highly versatile plants, allowing you to grow them in beds, containers, and even through grassy areas. However, that means that the instructions for planting will differ very slightly depending on where you plant them!

For beds and grassy areas, dig a hole around 3 times the bulb’s depth (about 10cm) and wide enough to fit the bulb. If planting in groups, dig a wider area of the same depth and just make sure to distance each bulb an equal amount apart.

If you’re planting your bulbs in containers, fill the pot with growing medium (compost or soil) until you’ve reached its halfway point. We recommend you use peat free compost where possible. Distance the bulbs around 20cm from the top of the pot. and place your bulbs on top of the soil, about 5cm apart. Cover with the compost to the top of the pot, breaking up any lumps as you go and gently press the soil so that it’s nice and flat.

Where to Plant Daffodils

As previously mentioned, daffodils will thrive happily in beds, containers, and in grassy areas around the garden. These beauties will even naturalise, providing you with a bigger display year after year with zero fuss!

If you’re looking to plant your bulbs in grass, we have a perfect trick to make your display look more natural. Grab a handful of bulbs and gently throw them onto the desired area and simply plant them where they land. Easy peasy!

Read more from J Parker’s

When to Plant Daffodil Bulbs

Daffodils welcome in the spring season, producing a dazzling display wherever they’re planted. These high-performing blooms are a must-have for the season.

If this is your first spring season, or you’d simply like to know when to plant daffodil bulbs, then follow this handy guide and watch these spring beauties grow!

When to plant Daffodil Bulbs

Daffodils can be planted from late August, all the way through to December. Once you receive your bulbs in the post, you can either plant them or store them for later.

If they’re going into storage for a few months, make sure you choose a cool and dry place, whether it be a cupboard or the garage.

How to Plant Daffodils

To plant your daffodils, make sure you give them plenty of room and drainage. Once you’ve chosen where to plant them (which we’ll talk about next!), dig a hole that’s wide enough to fit the bulb comfortably – at least 3 times the bulb’s depth (around 10cm deep).

If planting in groups, dig a trench instead of individual holes at the same depth. Pop each bulb into the holes, pointed side up and spaced twice its width apart. Cover with soil and pat down gently. Do not step on the area, as it can damage the bulbs.

Where to Plant Daffodil Bulbs

Daffodil bulbs can be easily planted in beds, containers, and grass/lawns. They are both effortless to grow and maintain, ideal for beginners and low-maintenance garden owners.   

Grow your bulbs in areas that reach plenty of sunlight. Although they do tolerate shade, they prefer sunny conditions to grow. Containers are great for daffodils as they can be damaged by excessive wetness. That being said, try not to let the soil get too dry as containers have brilliant drainage.

Read more from J Parker’s

When to Plant Spring-flowering Bulbs

spring-flowering bulbs

Many spring-flowering bulbs are considered some of the most well-known blooms in the world. Their beauty knows no bounds, adding some much needed colour to the garden after the long, cold winter months.

If you’re planning a spring display and need to know when to plant your bulbs, then follow this simple guide.

When to Plant Your Spring-flowering Bulbs

spring-flowering tulips and daffodils

Most spring bulbs should be planted in Autumn. Any time between September and November is the most common planting window, allowing the bulb to chill before flowering in the spring.

For early-flowering varieties like daffodils and crocus, try and get them in the ground by the end of September. Mid-season flowering varieties like Tulips can be planted from October to late November.

Our Favourite Spring Varieties

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How late to plant spring-flowering bulbs

Many believe that early-mid autumn is the only time window for planting spring-flowering bulbs, but the truth is, if you miss this timeframe, don’t worry; there’s still plenty of time to plant bulbs. Keep reading to view our tips for planting spring-flowering bulbs in late autumn and winter.

When should you stop planting spring bulbs?

Tulips, Daffodils and all other spring flowering bulbs are normally planted throughout September, October and November. However, if you still have spring bulbs to plant, you can still plant them in December, as long as the ground isn’t frozen. A good rule of thumb is as long as it’s still mild, it isn’t too late. You can even keep planting tulip bulbs into January if the weather allows!

What do you do if the ground is frozen?

If the ground is frozen, there’s another option. Plant your remaining bulbs in pots using potting soil and store them in a dark, cool place over winter (e.g. garage or cellar), until the ground becomes workable again.

Check out some of our other blogs:

New Daffodils & Narcissus for Spring 2021

Daffodils are a beautiful sign that spring has officially begun. At J. Parker’s, we pride ourselves on our extensive collection of narcissus and daffodil bulbs. However, we always keep an eye out for potential new additions.

Daffodils are the perfect plant for your spring display, adding much needed colour after the colder months.
As it is officially bulb planting season, we decided to share our newest additions to our daffodil range.

Narcissi Peach Cobbler

Peach Cobbler is a distinguished variety that flowers from March to April. It produces buttery yellow layers of petals with a bright orange centre. This eye-catching Narcissus will be the envy of your neighbours. 

Jonquilla Narcissi Collection

Jonquilla bulbs produce the most incredible sweet scent, as well as stunning flowers. Perfect for your beds, borders, containers, or even as cut flowers. This collection includes 15 of each variety: Pipit, Kedron, Quail, Pueblo, Golden Echo, and Blushing Lady.

Rare Double Daffodil Collection

Create an awe-inspiring display in your spring garden with our Rare Double Daffodil Collection. Includes 10 each of Delnashaugh, Obdam, Heamoor, and Peach Cobbler.

Narcissi Heamoor

Introducing this exceptional Double Daffodil, layered with sunny yellow petals that swirl in the center of the trumpet. The perfect addition for your spring garden display!

Essential Garden Jobs for August

With the bank holiday weekend upon us and a heatwave on the horizon, it is the perfect opportunity to get out into the fresh air, enjoy the garden and finish off your summer gardening jobs in time for bulb planting season.

There’s lots to be getting on with in the garden, so here are our essential jobs for August.

Pruning

  • Prune shrubs and climbers (Wisteria, Pyracantha) to keep your garden tidy.
  • Prune and shape hedges and evergreen hedges before they stop growing in the autumn.
  • Cut long-flowering perennials to the ground, such as Hardy Geraniums.
  • Trim back lavender after it has finished flowering.

Weeding

  • Sweep your patio and trim any small weeds as they germinate.
  • Hoe the soil to keep weeds down. This should be done in warm, dry conditions to ensure that any weed seedling left on the surface will dehydrate and die.
  • Remove pond weeds with regular debris cleaning.

Watering

  • Water plants that need it regularly.
  • Water in the morning or late afternoon/evening to prevent the water evaporating in the heat.
  • During hot spells, splash water on the floor of your greenhouse to bring the humidity up.

 Lawn Care

  • Mow weekly but reduce frequency and raise blades if the weather is hot and dry.
  • Lawn weeds are usually prominent and need pulling or treating.
  • Apply a high phosphate fertiliser at the end of the month to benefit the grass roots.

 Wildlife

  • Keep bird baths topped up with fresh water.
  • When deadheading, leave some flower seedheads as food for birds and small mammals.
  • Deadhead Buddleia bushes to keep them flowering into the autumn for bees and other insects.

Bulb planting

  • Start ordering your spring-flowering bulbs now. You can start planting bulbs such as Narcissi, Crocus and Hyacinths from September onwards.
  • Order Prepared Hyacinth and Indoor Narcissi bulbs and pot them up so that they will be ready for December.

 

How to Plant Daffodil Bulbs for Spring

Need advice and guidance on planting Narcissi and Daffodil bulbs? We’re here to help. Our easy to follow guide will lead you through the planting, a visual tutorial on planting tips and advice to get the best results in your spring garden, through to the aftercare of your plants.

The Narcissi or Daffodil as is it more commonly known, is one of the most recognisable perennial bulbs in the British garden and has been for centuries. The joy that these simple to grow bulbs can bring is prominent in the poem entitled “I wandered lonely as a cloud” by William Wordsworth where he stumbled across “a host of golden Daffodils”. The sight of Daffodil flowers dancing adds thoughts of joy and pleasure to the poet and to millions of British gardeners to this day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a huge range of premium Daffodil and Narcissi bulbs available to buy now and plant in autumn, for a superb spring show, ideal for borders, rockeries or pots on the patio. Daffodils are typically synonymous with Spring time. They are a true British favourite and have been cultivated for hundreds of years for their bright and beautiful display of colour in the Spring. We offer over 150 different Daffodils and Narcissi here at J. Parkers with many kinds of these great plants to choose from.

Planting

Plant Daffodil bulbs at least 10cm deep in the autumn. Space as desired or plant in clumps for a cluster display. Daffodils prefer a spot well sheltered from the wind, preferably with plenty of access to sun. Best planted in well drained, fertile soil.

To help offer our customers great practical advice alongside our top quality products, our resident gardener Jeff explains in this how-to guide just what it is that makes these Spring flowers a true British favourite and why they’re a must have for any garden. Planting a mixed variety of Daffodils is the perfect way to create a unique blend of colour for your Spring display. Below, we’ve listed some of our great mixtures and collections to get you started!

Aftercare

  • Keep soil moist during the growing season and allow the leaves to die back naturally before deadheading.
  • They can be lifted and moved once the foliage has died off or they can be left to naturalise when planted in grass or under trees, where they can be left undisturbed for years.

Click here to visit our website for more information or check out our extensive range of Narcissi and Daffodil bulbs.

Creative Gardening: How-To Start Lasagne Planting

Planting layered spring bulbs, also known as lasagne planting or double decker pots, is a great way to get a fabulous spring display or a staggered display that lasts several months and keeps delivering colour to your patio.

You can do this with any spring flowering bulbs and really get creative with the combinations you choose. We selected some traditional favourites for our own display, with Triumph Tulips, Dwarf Narcissi Tete-a-Tete, Bedding Hyacinth Mixed and finally large flowering crocus mixed.

Getting a long lasting pot display really couldn’t be easier, and we’ve put together this guide along with a complete video tutorial from our expert Jeff Turner to show you exactly how to get the best from your spring patio displays.

All you need is a large pot, some crocks or grit for drainage, good multi-purpose compost and some quality J. Parker’s bulbs. Watch the video below to see how Jeff gets on;

The trick is to plant the larger, later flowering bulbs towards the bottom so that the small, early flowering varieties can flower first early in the season, and as they die off the next lot comes through to continue the display.

In this case we plant our Triumph Tulips first, as Tulips prefer to be planted that bit deeper. We’ve used Triumph Tulips for their tall, strong wind resistant stems and the fantastic variety of colour that goes into our Parker’s mixture.

Next add another layer of compost, and plant your next set. We’ve gone for Narcissi Tete-a-Tete, the most popular dwarf Daffodil known for its versatility and reliability. This will produce traditional golden trumpets on short stems.

The next layer was Hyacinth, specifically a bedding sized mixture for a strong display, and finally the top layer is large flowering Crocus Mixed. This will be the last planted and the first to flower, as these beautiful early spring bulbs will produce a carpet of low-growing colour.

Have you tried this at home? Let us know how you got on!