Gardeners, walkers and lovers of the outdoors will have noticed that things are starting to happen in flower beds, on hillsides and along river banks. The snowdrops have come (and, in some cases, gone) and the olfactory blunderbuss that is the wild garlic will soon be announcing itself with gusts of onion-y whiff and carpets of verdant green shoots. But those with a particular penchant for a certain spring-flowering bulb of the genus Narcissus will be well aware that we are also entering daffodil season.
And nothing says spring like daffodils.
Memorialised in verse by Lakeland poet William Wordsworth (you know the one: “I wander’d lonely as a cloud” etc.) and co-opted by our Celtic cousins as the national flower of Wales – happy belated St David’s Day – the daffodil is also perfectly at home in our more northerly climes.
And how. One of the most comprehensive collections anywhere in the UK can be found at 16th century Brodie Castle near Forres, traditional home of the Brodie family. Here you’ll find over 100 varieties bringing a wash of yellow (and white and red and orange) to the grounds.
There is a reason why Brodie Castle is pre-eminent in the world of daffs. Major Ian Brodie, the 24th Laird, caught the daffodil bug in 1899 and began cross-breeding from an initial collection of 49 bulbs. Returning wounded in 1902 after seeing action in the Second Boer War, he threw himself into his hobby and soon had over 500 seedlings from several hundred cross-breeding attempts, cultivating his plants in a walled garden at the castle. Today only 116 cultivars still exist there, though that’s plenty enough for “a host of golden daffodils” (Wordsworth again) to appear every year. The castle has six flower beds given over to them, each one 45 metres long by 10 metres wide. Each produces around 70,000 bulbs.
Brodie’s legacy may have made Brodie Castle a mecca for daffodil lovers, but the historic tower house and its expansive grounds don’t have a monopoly on the flower. Next month at Backhouse Rossie, a walled garden at the Rossie Estate near Auchtermuchty in Fife, you’ll find Scotland’s Daffodil Festival. Held over the weekend of April 9 and 10 it offers sight of some 20,000 plants, including the scented Wordsworth variety.
Well, there had to be one named after him, didn’t there?