Head Gardener share his March gardening tips

March 02 2023 | Garden

Neil Miller, Head Gardener at Hever Castle, shares his March gardening tips and talks about a former owner’s devotion to the daffodil.

Readers who listened in their history lessons at school will be very familiar with the passionate story of Anne Boleyn, of her association with Hever Castle in Kent and her sad end at the hands of Henry VIII, but how many are as familiar with the tale of the American billionaire owner of Hever whose love for daffodils knew no bounds?

William Waldorf Astor was a man with a vision, one that was coloured yellow in March thanks to his devotion to daffodils.

During the Belle Époque (‘beautiful era’) of gardening his obsession with daffodils really took hold and he declared he’d like to see them planted all across the Estate.

Hever Castle & Gardens was purchased by Astor (the richest man in America at the time) in 1903 and from 1904-1908 he created one of the famous Edwardian pleasure gardens in the UK at Hever, a garden that continues to delight so many today.

We know from our research, and from the documentation we have, that William Waldorf Astor was very keen on daffodils.  He had his gardeners create four huge daffodil cut-outs on the lawn near the Loggia and purchased multiple varieties from the best daffodil breeders of the age – which still flower today at Hever.

As part of Dazzling Daffodils (our Narcissus celebration in March) we are delighted this year to encourage visitors to walk in Astor’s footsteps and discover the daffodils that we know would have been in bloom when he lived here. 

Some of the daffodils pre-date Astor too – we know of some that are a couple of hundred years old – due to the depth at which they are planted.  We even have some of the old and ancient N. Telemonius Plenus, first brought to the UK in 1620, but it’s the older Edwardian daffodils planted by Astor’s team that mingle with the modern varieties planted by my team over the last decade which really pack a punch in March. 

We are excited for visitors to immerse themselves in the Orchard and experience the sights that Astor, and his famous guests, would have seen.

Visitors will be able to learn more about the daffodils from information points throughout the grounds.

Over the last five years, we have taken advice from possibly the greatest daffodil expert of our time – the wonderful Johnny Walkers of Walkers bulbs.

Johnny is the recipient of an astonishing 25 consecutive gold medals at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show for his daffodils, so he knows a thing or two about this wonderful flower!

Visitors to Dazzling Daffodils will get the opportunity to learn from Johnny, to explore the daffodils in Anne Boleyn’s Orchard with him, as well as discover all the many new varieties that we have introduced on the Estate with Jonny’s help.

The gardening team have planted 10,000 extra daffodils. 7,000 in the area known as Acer Dell and 3,000 on Woodland Walk so there is plenty to see and discover this year.

Header image shows Edwardian gardeners, the gardening team at Hever Castle during Astor’s time