March 16 2021 | Garden

Daffodils at Hever Castle

Daffodils are traditionally seen as the symbol of new beginnings, and whether they’re rare, ancient, or the latest variety, these popular blooms signal the start of spring for many and a positive start to the gardening year.

With 50,000 daffodil bulbs set to bloom across Hever Castle’s gardens this spring, feel uplifted by the cheerfulness of this exquisite bloom which symbolises new beginnings.


Gardeners and celebrities have shared with Hever Castle their thoughts on what they feel when they first see daffodils:

Johnny Walkers, holder of 25 consecutive gold medals at RHS Chelsea Flower Show says:

“Snowdrops are supposed to be the harbingers of spring, but for me, spring does not start until I see the first daffodils. I know then that the days are getting longer and the sun warmer.

Seeing those first shoots poking through the ground and watching them push their buds upwards and then opening is always a magical moment for me. Despite the fact that I know what to expect in the way of flower shape, smoothness of the petals and colour I still get excited as each variety comes into flower.

Although I know that most of the early ones are yellow (Tamara, February Gold, St. Keverne) there is always the exception to the rule (Spring Dawn white –yellow).

And when I’m asked for my favourite variety, I usually answer ‘that is like choosing your favourite grandchild’. Impossible. There are varieties that are special either because of their depth of colour (Golden Aura), colour combination (Emerald Green) or possibly got me out of a hole at a show. One that brings back particular memories is Georgie Boy that was short listed for Plant of The Year at Chelsea and helped raise £1000 for The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity.”

Val Bourne, garden writer for The Telegraph & Amateur Gardening:

“Daffodils always remind me of the first date with the Best Beloved, over 20 years ago. We went to look at the wild daffodils in the Leadon valley near Dymock. It was a perfect spring day and I still have the badge the Best Beloved bought me!

“I don’t like the ominous large yellows though, give me soft and subtle every time – they capture the moment when spring takes over from winter!”

Roy Lancaster CBE, plantsman, author and broadcaster:

“I am fortunate in having woods within easy reach of my home where our native daffodil Narcissus pseudonarcissus grows wild and free and so far unadulterated by the influence of the large-flowered garden hybrids that are increasingly being planted by well-meaning local councils and private individuals on roadside verges and banks in rural areas.

“Don’t get me wrong. Like most gardeners I enjoy growing the latter in my garden especially in containers and my wife Sue and I only three weeks ago planted a new selection to flower next spring which we are looking forward to. Nor do I have any quibbles about the large quantities planted annually by local authorities along busy road networks especially by-passes and ringroads in urban areas especially where they bring a welcome if relatively brief splash of colour to otherwise drab or depressing surroundings.

“Among those I particularly enjoy in gardens are the small species such as N.cyclamineus and N. Bulbocodium which create such charming effects when mass planted in moist grassy places in larger gardens such as those of the RHS at Wisley and Harlow Carr and many of the National Trust and other gardens open to visitors.

“For most of us Spring would not be Spring without daffodils and now drops.

Happy Days to all Daffydown Dillies.”

Matthew Biggs, gardener, author and regular panelist on BBC Radio 4, Gardeners’ Question Time:

“One of my earliest childhood memories is of a small clump of Narcissus cyclaminaeus growing in a very low wall in my parents garden at home. I must only have been about 8 but they really made an impact, I loved those tiny plants with their small bright yellow flowers, I couldn’t believe they were so small. They didn’t last long as the conditions were not right – the soil was too free draining but the few years they survived they made a lasting impression. After too many years, I have bought some and I am really looking forward to them flowering next spring. Daffodils are must have plants for everyone, whatever their size, they are inspiring, upbeat plants and bring such joy and colour to the early months of the year.”

Nick Bailey, former had gardener at The Chelsea Physic Garden and now BBC Gardeners’ World presenter:

“Snowdrops might be the harbingers of spring but when the daffodils arrive I get that wonderful sense that Mother Nature has committed to spring and we are on our way.

“The sheer scale of these bucksome yellow blooms seems utterly incongruous in chilly march but their dogged determination and steely will drives me on, too.”

Peter Seabrook, gardener and broadcaster:

Peter is keen to underline the wonderful scent of the narcissus.

“Keep scent buds strained for the heavenly fragrances, filling the air from Tazetta Narcissi on warmer sunny days in spring.

“Last April Narcissus ‘Falconet’ and N. ‘Geranium’ (Hayloft and de Jager) did just that and in one garden everyone who entered was hear to comment in delight.”

Geoff Simmons, organiser of Blooming Tooting Flower to the People:

“I was thrilled to bits upon learning that the area where I live in south west London played an important role about 150 years ago in the development of the daffodil. In fields around here, now of course covered in streets and houses, a Scottish nurseryman called Peter Barr transformed the fortunes of this humble flower, turning it into one of this country’s favourite blooms. In doing so he propelled himself to horticultural superstardom as ’The Daffodil King’. Barr acquired hybrid collections, organising a system of classification and travelling to the edges of Europe in search of long-lost varieties. He had opened a seed and bulb shop in Covent Garden but it was to Tooting that he came to raise his family and where he tested his new varieties in the fertile alluvial soils of the Wandle Valley. The RHS soon recognised his work leading to a great Daffodil Conference in 1884. They would later instigate an annual ‘Peter Barr Memorial Cup’ and have acknowledged that his work is effectively ‘the foundation of the compilation of over 30,000 different daffodil names we hold today’.

“We were determined to celebrate ‘The Daffodil King’ by putting up a blue plaque. Local people chipped in towards funding as we promoted the initiative through guided walks, collaboration with schools and involvement in community events. At the plaque unveiling (Sept 2019) and in the weeks afterwards, we gave out thousands of bulbs, many of them historic varieties grown here by Peter Barr. Schools, estates, mosques, churches, charities… we spread them far and wide. Everyone got busy planting and in the spring, a wave of yellow engulfed Tooting, the like of which had not been seen for 150 years.”

Matthew Wilson, multi-award winning garden designer & broadcaster ‘The Landscape Man’:

“I use daffodils a lot in my design work. I especially like to use the smaller, cyclamineus and jonquil types as I find they work best with the more naturalistic style of planting I use.

Favourites would be Hawera, Sailboat, Jack Snipe, Pipit, spices daffodils like obvillaris and lobularis. I would tend to use these mainly as naturalised bulbs in grass. I like Thalia in borders with tulips, along with jonquils for scent.”

Arit Anderson, RHS Gold medal winning garden designer, writer and presenter on BBC Two’s Gardeners’ World:

“I love being in the Lake District and seeing the daffodils at the roadside. My mum loves Wordsworth and his famous poem. ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’ was something she would recite when I was young, well the first few lines at least, so when I’m there and see them for real in one of my most favourite places, where he got the inspiration, it’s heavenly. Glencoyne Bay, Ullswater.”