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Hideous daffodils

Narcissuspseudonarcissus500 Driving around England this last week, I’ve found the daffodils especially infuriating. Everywhere, even in relatively remote areas far from towns and villages, the roadsides are planted with daffodils. The trouble is that these daffodils, planted I’m sure by well-meaning local people, are so often large-flowered hybrids like ‘Dutch Master’. They just look so gross and out of place in these more or less natural situations.

If they’re going to plant daffodils, why not plant something less garish, something - dare I say it – like Britain’s native daffodils species, Narcissus pseudonarcissus? Seeing them in the grass at the Harcourt Arboretum a few miles outside Oxford, in the picture,reminds me how appropriate they look.

Pam Schwerdt and Sybil Kreutzberger, formerly Head Gardeners at the spectacular garden at Sissinghurst and my colleagues on the Royal Horticultural Society’s Herbaceous Plant Committee, have long complained about this habit of planting large flowered hybrid daffodils in more or less wild situations – they just look so unnatural! But their protests seem not to have yet sunk in.

So let me add my own encouragement: Please don’t plant large-flowered hybrid daffodils on roadsides, by farm gates, along hedgerows, and in other places populated by genuine wild flowers. If you want to plant daffodils, plant our own native wild species.

Comments

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Richard Loader

I think you are being elitist about this one Graham, in regard to Daffs on the outskirts of towns at least.
I totally agree with you about semi wild plantings but on verges around built up areas the impact from big bold hybrids does the job very well. When folks are zooming by at speed the delicate flowers of N.p. would be too prissy to have any impact.
I can't really think of any other location where I would want to see the large hybrid daffs....lead polluted, garbage strewn, shaggy verges seems the perfect place for them.

Mike Grant

Yes, i agree that they look pretty hideous outside of urban areas and beyond domestic verges. Also, it's very disheartening to see modern hybrids from garden verges interbreeding with our few remaining UK native daffs in places such as Newent in Gloucestershire.

However, I do enjoy seeing hybrids on field margins where they serve as the only reminder of past cultivation as a bulb or flower crop - as long as they are well away from the natives!

Richard Loader

On reflection, I think the main culprits for crossing with our wild stock are those dumped in laybys by folks disposing of garden green-waste - you can see evidence in surprisingly remote places. I can't imagine what motivates people to drive miles into the countryside to get rid of a couple of bin bags of compostable material - strange, but it happens.

Graham Rice

Elitist? Hmmm... It's just that 'Dutch Master' and similar hybrids look wrong: disproportionate in both size and brilliance of colour. To be fair, I think they look wrong planted in broad drifts in the grass at the RHS garden at Wisley too.

And the point about them crossing with our native species and degrading our native stock is a good one - our wild daffodils need all the help they can get.

Rebsie Fairholm

Some of the large drifts of daffodils you see along field margins and hedgerows in the UK date from the second world war, when fields formerly used for daffodil production were commandeered for food production and the bulbs just dumped at the side of the field. Many of these have colonised to form the strangely random clusters of roadside daffs you see today. Others, as you say, are the result of well-meaning attempts to prettify the landscape and don't really work. I agree that Narcissus pseudonarcissus is unsurpassed in its beauty and subtle colour, but as it's uncommon in the wild and only available to buy from specialist mail order firms I think most people aren't even aware of its existence, sadly.

Graham Rice

I agree, Rebsie, Narcissus pseudonarcissus is not as easy to come by as many hybrids. And if you set aside Mike's remarks about hybridisation, then a small flowered hybrid like 'Jack Snipe', perhaps, would be a suitable choice. The problem is that it's often the large and garish types which are the cheapest as they're produced in such vast quantities.

Jane

I have a large number of narcissi tete a tete left over from plantings at a trade fair last week. As I read this I am about to pack them up for the local primary school to plant on a hummock behind their playground.
I still think that they will look lovely next spring.
Jane

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