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. You can read more about The Flower Girls of London, here.

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

Read more from J. Parker’s

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

When to Cut Back Spring Flowers & Plants

Did you know that cutting back some spring flowers and plants helps them to perform better?

Spring is a great time of gardens, as all the remnants of winter finally disappears and we manage to see some sunshine. However, some plants and blooms need regular maintenance to help them thrive.

Herbaceous Perennials

If you’ve yet to trim your herbaceous perennials, then early spring (March onwards) is as good a time as any! Deadhead any seed-heads, dead leaves and stems to tidy up your garden borders. Throw them in a compost heap so that you can use it later on as mulch.

Bulbous Blooms

Spring bulbs are often the herald of the season. Daffodils, Hyacinths and tulips all fall into the spring flowers category, and although they look breathtaking when bloomed, they need maintaining to keep them that way. Leave your bulbs’ foliage for around eight weeks before cutting them back once died.

Bulbs photosynthesise, meaning that they store food and nutrients within the bulb which helps them to reappear the following year. If you cut these before they’ve had the chance, then they will struggle to regrow, leaving your displays looking sparse. For example, if your bulbs bloomed through March to April, then you should leave them standing until June or July.

Summer-flowering Shrubs

Although these aren’t spring flowering, summer-flowering shrubs should also be pruned throughout spring.

To promote a healthy regrowth before its flowering season, shrubs like Fuchsias should be pruned in early-mid spring. This will ensure that it creates an impressive display throughout its season. Simply cut back any of the previous year’s stems between one or two bud of the older wood frame.

Ornamental Grass

Ornamental grasses should be cut back in early-mid spring, depending on the variety. Grasses fall under two categories: Deciduous and Evergreen. The difference will determine how you prune them. Deciduous grasses will go a golden straw colour, and can be cut back entirely. Evergreens, however, do not need hard pruning, allowing you to simply remove what’s dead.

Read more from J Parker’s

The Best Spring Flower Combinations

Bulb planting season has finally arrived. Create a beautiful garden, path or walkway with a profusion of spring-flowering bulbs. To spark some green-fingered inspiration, here are some stunning spring flower combinations that will shine in any outdoor space.

Crocus and Snowdrops

A beautiful early spring combination. These hardy, frost resistant blooms are perfect for adding life to the bare late winter garden. Snowdrops and Crocus are both naturalising bulbs, so you can enjoy their beauty year after year. Plant around shrubs, trees or scattered in the lawn for a natural effect.

Create this look with:

Crocus Grand Maitre
Snowdrops (Single Flowering)

Alliums and Tulips

A bright and bold mid-late spring partnership. The statuesque blooms of Alliums pair wonderfully amongst the jewel-like tones of Tulips. This charming combination will create an explosion of colour for weeks on end.

Create this look with:

Allium ‘Purple Sensation’
Tulip ‘Jumbo Beauty’

Daffodils and Pansies

This early spring combination is a breath a fresh air. These hardy flowers are perfect for creating a colourful display in the frosty air of early spring. Yellow daffodils and rich purple pansies make a striking partnership in beds, borders and pots.

Create this look with:

Daffodil ‘Dutch Master’
Pansy ‘Morpheus’

Daffodils and Tulips

Looking to fill your garden with fragrance? Hyacinths provide colourful, fragrant blooms in mid spring. Paired alongside some beautiful bedding pansies, plant this combo along pathways, near a patio or in pots around a doorway to fully enjoy their beautiful scent.

Create this look with:

Daffodil Gigantic Star
Tulip Van Eijk

Tulips and Muscari

Tropical and exciting. A combination of Tulips and Muscari are the perfect late-spring partners. Underplant the tall stems of Tulips with the low growing blooms of Muscari for a hint of fragrance and to create a vibrant, clustered display.

Create this look with:

Tulip Mystic Van Eijk
Muscari Blue Magic

How to Grow a Sensory Garden

Growing a sensory garden is simple way to create a space that’s not only amazing to look at, but great for mental well being. In our blog post, we’ll share what a sensory garden is and which plants we recommend to start off your very own sensory garden.

What is a sensory garden?

Sensory gardens should be filled with plants that activate all our senses; touch, smell, sound, sight and taste. To create a sensory space, focus on:

  • Scents that fill the air: Daphne, Philadelphus and Honeysuckle
  • Plants you can smell up close: Hyacinths and Muscari
  • Plants that make sound in the wind: Grasses and Bamboo
  • Plants that add texture: Eremurus, Gypsophila and Wisteria
  • Plants you can taste: Edible aromatic plants like Wild Garlic

Our Sensory Garden Starter Pack:

We’ve selected our special sensory favourites from our online range to start off your sensory garden journey.

Muscari ‘Cupido’

Easy to grow and versatile spring plants. Enjoy the lovely fragrance of these pale blue, pea-like flowers in patio pots or around trees and shrubs.

Hyacinth ‘Miss Saigon’

A vibrant, showstopping Hyacinth. These bold purple blooms are perfect for adding fragrance along borders or pathways.

Allium ‘Summer Drummer’

A popular plant at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show. These tall, highly fragrant Alliums are perfect for the back of the border.

Eremurus ‘White Beauty’

A dazzling white bloomer that adds height and texture to the garden. These award-winning, long-flowering beauties are perfect for the summer garden.

Daphne ‘Eternal Fragrance’

A creamy white Daphne. Their sweet scent is not to be missed when being carried in the breeze on a warm summers day.  Perfect for patio pots.

Wisteria ‘Prolific’

A show-stopping climber. If you want to add, texture, scent and movement to the garden, this vibrant purple Wisteria does it all.

Check out some of our other blogs:

February in the Garden

February invites the first signs of spring into our gardens; days are lengthening, bulbs begin to emerge from the ground, and colour in the garden is just around the corner. This month is about cleansing (after the Latin word februum which means purification), and there’s no better time than now to give your garden a little TLC in preparation for spring.

Tidy Up

Flowers

  • Remove faded flowers, such as Winter Pansies and Violas, from containers to encourage them to flower more during spring and prevent from going to seed.
  • Deadhead early flowering plants such as Primulas regularly to encourage fresh flowers.
  • Remove any dead or decaying leaves from container plants to avoid encouraging slugs and snails in early spring.

Grasses

  • Deciduous grasses which have been left unpruned over winter should now be cut back to the ground.
  • Remove dead material from evergreen grasses to make space for new growth in the coming months.
  • Tidy up decaying material around perennials and remove any leaf litter to discourage the slugs and snails as they arrive in early spring.

Cutting Garden

  • Prepare your cut flower beds by removing any stubborn perennial weeds, such as brambles or bindweed, which may be hiding.
  • If the soil is particularly stony, it can be sieved and raked until the texture is nice and fine.
  • Borders can also be given a boost by adding organic feed such as chicken manure and seaweed.

Looking after your lawn:

  • Remember to keep off the grass when there’s a frost, as the blades are more susceptible to damage which could lead to lawn diseases and other problems.
  • Ensure you brush off any debris or leaves which have fallen onto your lawn, as they can smother and cause discolouration to the grass.
  • Towards the end of the month, if the grass has produced some growth, you may be able to give your lawn a light trim with the lawnmower.

Planting Summer Bulbs

There are many lovely late-spring and summer bulbs which although usually planted in the autumn, if you missed that slot, early spring provides another opportunity. Below are some beautiful bulbs suitable for planting this month.

Allium

Alliums are easy to grow and once established return reliably every year; if planted in February will flower in late spring and early summer.

Lilies

Lilies can be planted in February and March and make a great scented display. If your garden has wet, heavy soil they are better planted in containers.

Anemone

Anemone can be planted from February onwards. The best chance of ensuring summer bulbs flower the following year is to feed them during the growing season.

Crocosmia

Crocosmia can be planted in the spring for flowering in late summer and make a great display. They’re easy to grow and return reliably each year.

Prepare for your summer garden by shopping our New Spring 2020 range HERE!

Alternatively, you can request our Spring 2020 catalogue here.

Liven Up Winter/Spring Beds with Colourful Primulas

Lift your spirits in the dull days of winter with the bright colours of Primulas. No garden is complete without these cheerful and hardy perennials as they are available in a wide range of sizes, shapes and come in every colour imaginable. These easy to grow blooms are perfect any type of garden, whether you need to fill some ground space or adding some wonderful colour to the front of the border.

In this blog post, we will guide you through our favourite Primula varieties, planting tips and aftercare, so that you can grow a rainbow of beautiful Primulas even during those cold, winter months.

Top varieties

Primula Colour Carnival

Packed with vibrant shades, our ‘Colour Carnival’ are an exciting mixture of bi-coloured Primula. Their fragrant blooms are perfect for attracting pollinators to the spring garden. Easy to grow, robust plants for beds and borders.

Click here to view online.

Primula Husky Raspberry Punch

Brighten up the winter garden with the bursting brilliant pink hues of Primula ‘Raspberry Punch’. Flowering from January through to April, these cheery flowers will add a kick of colour to borders, pots, or why not plant them en-masse for a real eye-catching feature.

Click here to view online.

 Primula Primlet

Producing masses of stunning double and semi-double flowers, these blooms almost resemble a miniature rose in the midst of the winter/spring season. From yellows to violet hues, these hardy perennials are ideal for creating a rainbow in the winter border.

Click here to view online.

 Primula Showstopper Lime/Cream

A bright and delicate perennial. Our beautiful new ‘Showstopper’ is a pure delight in the late winter garden when their lime tinted cream flowers are on show. Ideal for the border, beds and containers.

Click here to view online.

Primula Wanda

Fill the winter garden with the beautiful fragrance of Primula Wanda. Plant them where you can enjoy their scent, such as in patio containers or the front of the border. Wanda is a beautiful mixture of vibrant, ruffled flowers that are perfect for any garden.

Click here to view online.

 

There are many benefits to growing Primulas:

  • A wide range of colours are available.

Our Favourite Bulb For Planting This Month – Double Daffodils

Incredibly charming and beautiful, Double Daffodils are more than your average daffodil. Their peony-like ruffled blooms are often fragrant and appear packed with rows of petals and thrills in an assortment of delicate colours, from peachy pinks to white and yellows. These exceptional flowers are perfect for adding a burst of romance to your beds and borders, and even for naturalising under shrubs, trees or the lawn.

Check out our favourites for 2019:

Narcissi White Lion

Undoubtedly one of our finest varieties. This award-winning variety produces sweetly scented double flowers in mid-late spring. With warm yellow centres surrounded by creamy-white petals, these pretty blooms will delight in the garden.

Click here to view online.

Narcissi Sweet Pomponette

This gorgeous double Daffodil is one of the prettiest in the Narcissi family. Radiate sunshine in the spring garden with these creamy yellow blooms. These sweet scented flowers are great for the border, or why not enjoy them potted up in containers.

Click here to view online.

 Daffodil delnashaugh

This incredibly romantic Daffodil produces pretty creamy-white petals surrounding ruffled, warm apricot-pink segments. Also, their wonderful scent will attract pollinators to the mid-late spring garden.

Click here to view online.

 

Narcissi Calgary

Create gleaming spring borders with our Narcissi Calgary. These stunning double blooms shine in the garden with their ruffled and wavy white flowers. Not only will they brighten up borders, but they also look great in pots or as cut flowers.

Click here to view online.

Make bulb planting easier with these cheery Double Daffodil Collections:

Daffodil Cheerfulness Collection

Two of our most popular, fragrant varieties together. Our mid-late spring flowering duo Cheerfulness (white) and Yellow Cheerfulness (yellow) are the perfect partners for bringing vibrant colour and sweet scents to the garden.

Click here to view online.

 Narcissi Fragrant Poeticus Collection

Delight your senses with this highly fragrant Narcissi collection. Flowering later than most varieties (April-May), this Actaea and The Bride pairing will liven up your spring borders right up until the end of the season.

Click here to view online.

Need some planting advice?

Planting time: September-November

Plant of the Month: Crocus

With bulb planting season on the horizon, it’s perfect time to start planning your spring displays, and what better than beautiful, bold blooming Crocus flowers? As one of the well-loved staples of spring, Crocus are one of the first flowers to appear in spring. From bold and rich purples, lilacs, cheerful yellows, to striking blends and patterns, Crocus have every colour you need to create an eye-catching garden display.

Scroll down to view our favourite bestsellers, a run down of the different varieties on offer and for planting tips and tricks for bulb planting season.

Winter/Spring Flowering

How to Plant: Dwarf Tulips

Need advice on planting Dwarf Tulip bulbs? We’ve compiled our gardening advice in this informative blog guide on planting, arrangement, and aftercare to help make your gardening job easier.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tulips are one of the most popular Spring bulbs for a reason. Fantastic colours and attractive shapes make them a stunning choice for your garden displays. There are a wide variety of Greigii/Kaufmanniana or dwarf Tulips within our range, from First Price, Little Beauty, Humilis, and Scarlet Baby; all with stunning colourful blooms that would be perfect for any spring border, or even hanging basket, and their spectacular foliage produces year after year whilst requiring minimal care.

Planting

Tulips do not need to be planted until October in to December. Plant bulbs in well dug soil about 8-10cm deep and approx. 15cm apart. It is often beneficial to use a little bonemeal or super phosphate mixed in with the soil. Tulips delight during their growth in a sunny location.

Video

In this video tutorial, our resident gardening expert Jeff talks us through how to plant Dwarf Rockery/Botanical Tulips, with great easy to follow advice on how to achieve a terrific spring rockery display.

Aftercare

After the tulips have bloomed and when leaves fade and turn brown, the bulbs can be lifted, dried, cleaned and stored in a cool place until planting time. This allows the bulb to store more food and produce flowers the following year. Tulips should not be grown in the same soil for several years, so replace with fresh soil every other year.

 

Flower Garden Stories: Legendary Spring Flowering Bulbs and Plants

After an unusual spring and a glorious summer, its time to start thinking about autumn planting. Our full autumn range is now available for pre-order, ready for you to start thinking about what you’ll be planting this year for your spring 2019 display.

To give you a bit of inspiration, we’ve taken a look at how these gorgeous flowers have been catching our eye for thousands of years. Many of the plants we sell to this day have origin stories in the myths and legends of ancient cultures. In Ancient Greece, everything from the sky to the tiny flowers of the earth had their own deity and mythology.

We’ve chosen six of our favourite plants and bulbs that earned a place in the stories of Ancient Greek mythology;

Narcissus

The story of Narcissus is one of vanity and, yes, narcissism.

The beauty of Narcissus was apparently so incomparable that his mother feared he would meet some tragic demise, but was consoled by a local seer that his life would be long and happy so long as he never recognised himself. Like most of these ancient prophesies, Naricissus’ fate came to pass when he fell madly in love with his own reflection and drowned trying to reach himself.

The beautiful Narcissi sprang up where he died, their delicate nodding heads hanging downwards presumably to admire their own reflection.

Anemone

Greek myth states that the Anemone was traditionally white, but was turned red by the death of Aphrodite’s lover Adonis. A similar connection is made to Jesus, who’s crucifixion in Christianity is often associated with the anemone when depicted in art.

Crocus

The story of Krokos in Greek myth depicts him as a young man who’s lover, the nymph Smilax, had died tragically. In his greif, Krokos prayed to the Olympians for mercy. The gods deemed to turn the man into a Crocus and his lover to an evergreen tree, so that the pair may live in each other’s company for eternity. The delicate crocus can often be found flowering in the shade of larger plants to this day.

 

Iris

The colourful, delicate Iris are supposedly named for the greek goddess of the same name. Iris, which means eye of heaven, would deliver the word of the gods to earth via a rainbow. It make sense that the flower would take this name for its rainbow of colours and unusual eyedrop markings.

Hyacinth

Another tragic love story of greek mythology was that of Hyacinth, a mortal who found himself in a love triangle with the sun god Apollo and Zephyrus, the western wind. When their quarrelling lead to his demise, Apollo’s tears burst into life as they hit the ground and bloomed into wonderful, fragrant Hyacinth.

Peony

This particular myth makes more sense in its own time. Paeon worked as a healer under the god Asclepius, who’s symbolism still inspires the medical industry with the Rod of Asclepius forming the logo of health organisations across the world. So talented was Paeon that Asclepius himself envied him, and the king of the gods himself was forced to intervene. In an effort to save the healer from his tutor, Zeus turned Paeon into the flower Paeony, which was in ancient times more widely used for its apparent medicinal properties.

Hopefully these have offered some inspiration to modern gardeners also, and right now you can shop our full autumn range online with our latest free gifts. Get planning!