NB – This page now has an updated introduction. For a more complete, but still very out-of-date list of daffodils and photos, please look at the Welsh Daffodils 2023 page.
When we bought Gelli Uchaf as a derelict shell (“with potential”) way back in 1993, there was no garden at all. The only garden flowers on the whole site were a few ancient double daffodils in the banked hedgerows of our access track, below. How could we begin to create a garden in West Wales and not try to grow daffodils, (cenhinen bedr – ‘St.Peter’s leek’), the National flower? But which ones to try, when there are tens of thousands available? Surely Welsh origin ones would be a good starting point?
But does that mean named daffodils grown and sold as bulbs in Wales? Difficult even to manage this, since there are very few Welsh nurseries selling them in this way – most bulbs sold are imported. Or named daffodils which were actually bred in Wales? Or even daffodils bred by a Welshman/woman? Living in Wales, or not?
(I’d like to think that in time these unique bulbs, all slightly different, beginning to flower in our upper wild flower meadow from seed saved from daffodils growing here, and simply scattered onto this land over the last 4 seasons, might be viewed as truly Welsh daffodils. But who knows, and does it really matter?)
As I’ll touch on, this is a murky subject and not as easy to explore as one might think. Several countries – England, Scotland, Ireland and more recently the Netherlands and U.S.A. have a strong history of growing and hybridising daffodils. But what about Wales?
As with my previous observations on snowdrop cultivars, I’ve found it incredibly hard to find any named cultivars specifically bred in Wales, (a strange situation, given its National flower status), so the title of this page simply reflects an attempt to showcase some varieties which survive, and bloom fairly reliably here in our wet upland Welsh climate. This excellent article by Catherine Beale, which I only came across in 2023, and more details here, tells the story of a cluster of daffodil breeders who were based around Presteigne, on the very border of Wales and England, in the early C20th. However, many of the daffodils named in this article, don’t seem to be available commercially any more. The most significant of these breeders was Alec Wilson (1868-1953) who bred 371 named varieties, after relocating his collection from Somerset. Presteigne has a small population of about 2,000, so to also have Dr Nynian Lower (1872-1926), Sir John Arkwright (1872-1954) and Gwendolen Evelyn (d.1949) all at work developing new daffodils around Presteigne was amazing.
Notwithstanding this problem of defining, let alone finding, truly Welsh daffodils, we’ve slowly worked towards a selection predominantly based on vintage or heritage cultivars, as well as those awarded an AGM (RHS Award of Garden Merit). And trying to find some of these which survive and flower reasonably well every year in our conditions. We obviously also mainly choose ones which appeal to our aesthetic senses, given the vast range of sometimes lurid and over-double forms available. (Recently acquired vintage daffodils being trialled, below).We grow them in trial beds or big bags, in our magic terrace garden, mixed with tulips:
And in borders, or naturalised amongst other perennials throughout much of the garden. Unlike fussy tulips, given the right variety choices, they will multiply well like snowdrops and all the effort putting them into the ground initially repays with compound interest over many years, in an ever more floriferous display.
As of 2023, we also have a fabulous display area of about 150 distinct cultivars in a Malus and Sorbus copse, featuring trees we’ve grown from seed. This will develop further in the years ahead to be a fascinating area for comparing colours, forms, sizes and flowering times of these wonderful spring flowers, which can bloom from early January, to the middle of May. The photos below give an idea of what this area looked like in mid-April 2023:
I should mention of course, the local Welsh Tenby Daffodil, a species, Narcissus obvallaris, which we do also grow. This flowers early, but not reliably. In some years, below, it produces a mass of strong yellow, smallish short-stemmed, and fairly short-lived flowers. However in other years, hardly any flowers appear from the hundreds of bulbs. So it’s less reliable for extending the season of daffodil flowering into later spring than many other named cultivars.
Click here for a link to the current RHS list of AGM cultivars with basic descriptions. Of the nearly 30,000 named varieties, about 140 have been given an AGM so the choice is still huge. However many of the AGM varieties will have been trialled in very different climate, rainfall and soil conditions to those found in our garden. (Narcissus ‘Brunswick’, below, is a very reliable and beautiful vintage daffodil, with us.)
The UK grows over 50 % of total world daffodil production, both for dry bulb sales as well as for cut flower production. But many forms we’ve tried don’t thrive with us, dying out or fading away after just the first year. So (beginning in 2015) I’m going to illustrate the ones which we can grow in order of flowering time with us beginning in early January, if we’re lucky, and on into the middle of May. To make flower comparisons a little easier, I’m showing the flowers cut, in a single blue glass bowl, as well as on the plants.
Even this process is fraught, since recently planted bulbs typically flower a week or 2 earlier than those in the ground, and individual flowers constantly grow and usually show colour changes as they age. (The daffodil below was an incorrect, unnamed variety sent to us in error, in autumn 2016 and has the unusual trumpet colour change from mid yellow to pale peach, then palest pink as it ages).
Most are named, some aren’t, having been acquired years before we started to record names. And occasionally more of the same named cultivar arrives 2 years running from the same wholesaler, and looks quite different when the flowers emerge! (Which of Parker’s Bulbs’ Narcissus ‘Actaea’, below is the correct clone? They’re both lovely, but notice the difference in trumpet size and form.)
The lower one we identified subsequently as N. ‘Merlin’, which we had never knowingly bought. Armed with this name, we have now added to our numbers of this special daffodil, since it’s a very reliable, long-flowering, later season variety, and is really appropriate given the mythical links between Merlin, the wizard, and Carmarthenshire.
You’ll also notice we’re not very keen on ‘Big All Yellow Jobs’.
Although we do like some of the charming vintage all yellow daffodils, as below, which we find sit more comfortably with our relaxed attempts at a generally naturalistic garden style.
I’m also keen to see if older varieties bred before commercial fungicides and pesticides became widely used in bulb fields, survive better with us over the long term.
I’ll also list their ‘division’ (a form of classification of daffodils into a dozen groups), their colours of perianth (petals) and corona (trumpet), their relative flowering time and height, and finally a note as to how reliable they are to flower regularly in our upland Welsh garden. Click here to see the excellent description of the division classifications on the Croft 16 daffodil site, which has, along with Ron & Adrian Scamp, click here, been a wonderful source for us of many of these charming vintage flowers.
Perhaps this page might encourage more people to explore the huge range of daffodils available, and please accept that as a work in progress, along with our other interests, this page may never look “complete”. It’s also surprisingly time consuming to manage to get good photos of lots of flowers as they open in a rush! Which is probably why you only tend to find images of single flowers on most commercial bulb sales sites.
This page shows their relative flowering times in 2017, which so far seem to be about 2 weeks earlier than in 2015. I’m occasionally including leaf colour in descriptions, where they differ from the standard blue green tint typical of the majority of daffodils. Sometimes such foliage colour variations can make nice contrasts in the spring garden.
For the last 2 years, as well as regularly scattering wood ashes from our stoves on the bulb growing areas, I’ve applied dried seaweed meal twice a year, in autumn and spring. Whether this supplementation of trace minerals is a key factor, or not, flowering in most cultivars has been much more consistent since its use began. We use no other fertilisers or mulches on our bulbs or any other parts of the garden, apart from the now quite considerable natural leaf fall, which is left in situ. Or spread as lawnmower chopped leaves onto those borders/areas which don’t get much tree leaf fall landing on them.
We add a few more varieties each year, and this list desperately need updating, but at last in 2023, we’ve made a start on cataloguing the ones we have growing here. Photos will have to come in future years (!) but currently there are around 200 distinct forms.
All daffodils, as you’ll see, really aren’t the same.
N. obvallaris (Tenby)
Narcissus pseudonarcissus ‘Lobularis’ (Lent Lily Daffodil)
N. pseudonarcissus moschatus
N. radiflorus var. radiflorus
N. radiflorus var. stellata
N. recurvus poeticus – (Pheasant Eye)
Autocrat (Midtown Autocrat)
Barret Browning (Poss?)
Ellie Ney (???)
Golden Mary (Midtown Elegance)
Happy Smiles (???)
Horn of Plenty
Lady Margaret Boscawen
Lady Mary’s Gwyther
Marie Curie Diamond
Mary Copeland (?)
Mrs R O Backhouse
Queen of the North
Rijnvelds Early Sensation
Rip Van Winkle
Sir Winston Churchill
Toby the First
Woodland Prince (Prob.?)
Unnamed as yet:
x Richard 1 – dwarf – tyre
x Richard 2 – dwarf – tyre
x February Gold-like but 2 weeks later
x Cream white small double, richly scented
x Egg yolk yellow v wide yellow trumpet – terrace/front border
x Orange Trumpet, cupped yellow
x Primrose yellow small double scented – like Cheerfulness -tyre
x Salmon pink trumpet – tyre
x Salmon pink yellow trumpet, flatter flower – tyre
x Short orange trumpet, yellow perianth, smaller flower – Amelanchier
x White Gardenia scented double tyre
x White perianth, apricot trumpet, early, large, highly scented – tyre
The links to DaffSeek given for many cultivars are to the excellent search pages of The American Daffodil Society, where you will find many more details of a lot of the cultivars; additional images; whether they are fertile; what progeny they might have produced, etc. A brilliant resource for a flower with such a vast range of named varieties.
Note: After the extremely mild wet, gloomy winter of 2016, with a late wintry sting in its March tail, most of our early daffodils have begun flowering 2 to 3 weeks earlier than the dates shown below. Some, like Rijnveld’s Early Sensation were 6 weeks earlier. In addition it looks like being a bumper flowering year for many, after a generally disappointing 2015. Probably a response to the high light levels of spring 2015 and damper cooler 2015 summer.
Narcissus ‘Crewena‘ (top – pics below) Div.1 – W-Y – Very early. Tall. Under assessment.
Narcissus ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’ AGM Div. 1 Y-Y Early. Tall. Always the first to flower with us. Poorer flowering 2015, third flowering year. (Mid February 2015)
MID MARCH 2015 …
Narcissus ‘Topolino‘ (top – pics below). AGM Div.1 – W-Y, Early. Short, poorer flowering in 2015. (Fourth year). One of the very few prolific seed setters of the daffodils we grow, and has widespread insect appeal. Bumblebees visit regularly.
Narcissus ‘Tête-à-tête‘. AGM. Div. 12 – Y-Y. Early. Short. Long term Reliable The most widely grown daffodil in the world. Sterile.
LATE MARCH 2015 …
Narcissus ‘Jetfire’ (top – pics below). AGM . Div 6 – Y-O. Early. Short. Prolific and long term reliably floriferous here, growing in very stony poor conditions. Sterile.
Narcissus ‘February Gold’ AGM. Div 6 – Y-Y. Early. Mid height. Long term reliable flowering here, in porr conditions and borders. Sterile.
Narcissus ‘Spring Dawn’ (top-pics below). Div.1 – W-Y. Early. Tall Under assessment 2015.
Narcissus obvallaris (Tenby Daffodil). Div.13 – Y-Y. Medium height. Our local species daffodil. Vigorous and clumps up well, in soil or shale so long term survival guaranteed, but very poor flowering in 2015
Narcissus ‘Brunswick’ (top, pics below). Div 1 – W-Y. Early. Very tall, vigorous and one of our most reliable cultivars. Longest lasting flowers of any we grow as well. It even sets a few seed, if allowed.
Narcissus ‘Ice Follies’. Div 2 – W-Y. Later into flower than Brunswick, but still quite early for a white perianth flower. Average height. Vigorous, and reliable in many locations with us increasing and flowering reliably.
‘Narcissus pseudonarcissus subsp. pseudonarcissus’ (top, pics below). Div.13 – W-Y .Short. The early native ‘Lent Lily’. The bulbs are not much bigger than a snowdrop, and the first year after flowering (2014) yielded only 1 flower from 200 bulbs, unlike most daffodils which will flower in the first season. But 2015 saw far more flowers.
‘Narcissus pseudonarcissus subsp. moschatus‘ (top,below). Div.13 – W-W. A variant colour form of the Lent Lily, and a little taller, native to the Pyrenees. Equally early flowering. Under assessment.
Narcissus ‘Eaton Song’ AGM. (top, pics below). Div 12 – Y-O. Early, short, and often multi headed. Long lasting flowers. Under assessment.
Narcissus ‘Rip Van Winkle’ Div.4 – Y-Y. Early and very short double flowers. These arrived in a bulb order, sent in error, but the spikey double flowers have a certain charm. Under assessment
FIRST WEEK of APRIL 2015 …
Narcissus ‘Gulliver’ (top, pics below). Div.2 – Y-Y. Tall. Fairly early. A nicely proportioned flower. Under assessment.
Narcissus ‘Lord Grey’. Div.1 – Y-Y. Tall. Fairly Early. Large, chunky flowers, with twisting of perianth segments. Under assessment.
Narcissus ‘Hospodar’ ( top, pics below) Div.2 – Y- O. Mid season. Medium height. Colours fade to white/orange as flowers age. Reliable.
Narcissus ‘White Nile’ Div.2 – W – O. Mid Season. Medium height. Under assessment. Narcissus ‘Sir Watkin’ (top, pics below). Div 1 – Y-Y. Early/Mid. Medium height. Under assessment.
Narcissus ‘ Brilliancy’ . Div 2 – Y-O. Early/Mid. Medium height. Under assessment.
Narcissus Unknown ! (top, pics below). Div.2 – W – Y/O. Medium height. Early/Mid. Reliable flowerer. Scented flowers.
Narcissus ‘Maggie Maybe’ Div.2 – W-Y. Medium Height. Early/Mid. Under assessment. Narcissus ‘Little Witch’ (top, pics below) Div. 6 -Y- Y. Short, reflexed petals. Early/Mid. Under assessment.
Narcissus ‘Colleen Bawn’ Div. 1 – W – W. Short, drooping flowers. Early/mid. Under assessment.
Narcissus ‘Beersheba’ (top, pics below) Div.1-W -Y. Early/Mid. Suffused pale yellow, quickly fading to white. Medium Height. Under assessment.
Narcissus ‘Midtown Noble’ Div.1 WY – Y . Early/Mid. Tall. Amazing rich egg yolk yellow trumpet. Long lasting flowers. Under assessment.
Narcissus ‘Sirius’ (top, pics below) Div 2 – W – YYO. Early/Mid. Medium Height. Under assessment.
Narcissus ‘Madame Plemp’ Div 1 – W – Y. Early/Mid. Medium Height. Under assessment.
SECOND WEEK of April 2015 (additional text pending)…
Narcissus ‘Southern Gem’ (top pics below).
Narcissus ‘Tenedos’ (top, pics below)
Narcissus ‘Ice Wings’ AGM.
Narcissus ‘Twink’ (top, pics below)
Narcissus ‘Mrs Langtry’
Narcissus ‘Crenver’ (top, pics below)
Narcissus ‘Biggar Bountiful’
Narcissus ‘Maybole Elegance’
Narcissus ‘Killigrew’ (top, pics below). Div 2. Y-O
Narcissus ‘Glorious’ Div.8(?) W-O Narcissus ‘Barrii Conspicuus’ (top, pics below) W – YO
Narcissus ‘Damson’ Div.2 Y/W – O Narcissus ‘Therapia’ (top, pics below) Div.2 W – O/Y
Narcissus ‘Godiva’ Div ? W – Y
Narcissus ‘Sarchedon’ (top, pics below). W – Y/O
Narcissus radiiflorus var.stellaris. W – Y/R Narcissus ‘Thalia’ (top, pics below). Div 5. W-W
Narcissus ‘Tresamble’ Div 5. W-W
Narcissus ‘Actaea’ AGM (bottom, pics below)
Narcissus “Merlin” AGM (bought as more Actaea)
What a lovely way to display these varieties and cultivars. There are several here that I have not seen before. Very Informative as an identification tool too. Please can you advise as to where it may be possible to purchase small amounts of some of them. Regards, Clive Burton, Devon.England.
Thanks for the kind comment. I’ve missed updating this section for this year, since I’ve got some other lovely ones I’m trialling as well. Ah well..too much to do.
I’ve used 2 sources for these older daffodils…Ron Scamp of Quality daffodils in Cornwall : http://www.qualitydaffodils.com/ who has a huge range and is very helpful. He lists a number of older historical daffs.
In addition Kate and Donald Duncan of Croft 16 daffodils at the opposite end of the country in Wester Ross..
Again, really helpful with a smaller range of just older daffodils, which because of limited stock of some, changes from year to year. You need to order early from them, all they’ll be out of stock..
I’m trying to bulk up quantities, and move towards displaying them all in a different way – I’m going to do a post about this soon, and increasingly I’m moving daffs in the green, like snowdrops, and might eventually think of selling some this way – although it sets them back a bit, if you’re wanting to create more of an aesthetic effect, which appeals to us, its so much easier to place them amongst others, if you can do so whilst they’re all in flower, and you can judge heights, and where existing clumps are. And some of these older daffs have so much more charm than many newer ones.
The other issue for us, is that no one tells you how fussy they are… we’ve had loads that diminish from year one, and completely disappear in 2 0r 3 years. Eventually I should have a better idea on how vigorous some of them are… again using AGM varieties is a helpful start, but even this fails for us in a high rainfall climate with some cultivars, very unreliable.