Daffodil Week: Going Public

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Nothing is more cheering on a sunny spring day than a broad swathe of daffodils emerging from lengthening grass, or a delicate cloud of cherry blossom hovering in the air. Driving out of Canterbury towards Harbledown yesterday I was greeted by verges and roundabouts thronged with narcissi. It was as if a magician had pulled a million bunches of flowers from his hat and public spiritedly plonked them in every inch of sward he could find. The effect was uplifting; a little bit of the unnecessary in a world where the beautification of things ‘just because’ seems very far down the list of priorities.

Narcissus actaea, St James' Park, London, March 2014

Public displays of daffodils are relatively commonplace in England, but I wish they were more so. Some of my favourites are in London’s Royal Parks. In St James’ Park, choice varieties such as Narcissus actaea are planted beneath cherry trees to create little cameos of paradise in the heart of the city. In these days of council cutbacks there’s little hope of more displays like those at Pegwell Bay in Kent being created at the tax payer’s expense. Yet this particular spectacle, around the Danish longboat replica ‘Horsa‘, attracts hundreds of visitors to East Kent every spring. In Thriplow, Cambridgeshire, the village’s 450 residents have worked together to plant thousands of daffodils in private gardens and public spaces. They stage a special Daffodil Weekend each year, raising huge sums for charity and bringing enormous pleasure to all those that take part in the event. Wouldn’t it be great if more villages followed Thriplow’s example, and not just with daffodils? A rose festival or a dahlia derby would surely be crowd pleasers.

Pegwell Bay daffodils

Whilst researching public displays of daffodils I stumbled upon a moving story in last week’s Telegraph newspaper. Having been told he only had eight weeks to live, retired RAF pilot Keith Owen decided to leave his £2.3m fortune to the resort of Sidmouth in Devon. The interest was to be spent on schemes to brighten up the seaside town and its neighbouring villages. One of Keith’s wishes was that a “valley of a million bulbs” should be planted at Park Head, on the cliffs above Sidmouth (see below). Since 2013, 400,000 daffodils have been planted by volunteers and groups, ranging in age from 2 to 90. Their reward is nothing more than being able to enjoy the ‘flowers’ of their labour every March and April, along with the town’s many visitors.

Whilst Mr Owen could have left his legacy to any number of worthy causes, he chose to invest in a place that he loved, for the benefit of thousands of others. Just occasionally we should all afford ourselves the opportunity to do something because it’s a beautiful gesture, not because it’s a necessary one. I’m certainly going to put aside a little ‘daffodil money’ from now on.

Do you know of any good public displays of daffodils? And if you could leave a horticultural legacy, what would it be?

Wishing you all a lovely weekend.

Sidmouth daffodilsPhoto credit: Sidmouth In Bloom


Categories: Bulbs, Flowers, Landscape Design, Parks, Plants

Posted by The Frustrated Gardener

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10 comments On "Daffodil Week: Going Public"

  1. It’s Sidmouth in Devon for me next year! What a wonderful gesture and legacy to leave that so many can share and enjoy. A fabulous, really interesting post.

    My legacy…. I would love for every nursing home and mental health facility to have a wonderful herb and flower garden that could be enjoyed by all resident, their family and friends and staff. Getting connected with what beauty and bounty nature has to offer creates such an amazing feeling of well being that no pill or tablet will ever replace.

  2. What a generous donation and beautiful opportunity for the community to come together. Our Master Gardener program works with local children to learn about where their food comes from and what components are needed for a productive garden. Here’s hoping you have a nice weekend surrounded by all those beautiful daffodils. 🙂

    1. Thank you Judy. You as well. It was 23 degrees centigrade in the garden this afternoon, although we had a terrible problems in London with pollution coming over from mainland Europe and high pollen count, so it’s not all a bed of roses. I like the idea of being a Master Gardener, thank you for sharing 🙂

  3. I can’t access the photos at present but it was lovely to read your story about the Sidmouth benefactor – what an amazing gesture!

    I love the fact that daffodils appear in verges everywhere – whether by design or otherwise…..

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