The Garden Community for Garden Lovers

Heritage Daffodils


By AndrewR


You may remember two series of programmes on the BBC called “The Great British Garden Revival.” One of them featured Carol Klein extolling the virtues of heritage varieties of daffodils, some of which have naturalised in the hedgerows of Cornwall, a county that used to grow them for the early cut flower trade.

As I am trying to develop a small spring garden under an apple tree in my garden, I decided I would grow a few of these old cultivars to see how they compare with modern varieties. A Google search revealed R & A Scamp, a company near Falmouth, stocking a selection. After picking five varieties, I placed an order and planted some good, healthy bulbs in October which are now coming into flower.

Dating from about 1893, Seagull has a small cup and grows to around 18 inches in height. It flowers in early to mid spring

Mrs R. O. Backhouse
This is the oldest of the pink daffodils and was named in 1923 by Mr Robert Backhouse after his late wife, a daffodil breeder. It flowers in April, growing to around 18 inches

Bath’s Flame
Another variety introduced in the early 1890s. Again, an early to mid season bloomer, and around 18 inches tall. Needs a well drained soil but likes moisture when in growth

As with the first two preceding varieties, this was bred by George Engleheart and introduced about the same time. Slightly taller, it has been described as his “greatest triumph,” and was for decades the standard of excellence against which all other narcissus of a similar parentage were judged. Engleheart was not a full-time plant breeder; his main job was as the vicar of Appleshaw near Andover in Hampshire.

Albatross is a sibling of Seagull and was registered a couple of years earlier. The main difference between the two varieties is that Albatross keeps the contrasting colour in the rim of the cup as the flowers age (Seagull loses this feature). It grows to around 18 inches, flowering a little later than Seagull. Its breeder called it one of his best creations.

So what do I think of these old varieties? The most obvious feature is that they all hang their heads slightly. There is nothing wrong with this, it’s just the ones we are used to tend not to display this trait. The flowers are also smaller than more modern varieties, but this makes them look more delicate and suitable for informal plantings. I would suggest these older cultivars are kept separate in the garden from the newer ones whose flower power would overpower their subtle charm. But I am glad I tried them and may add some different ones in the future. It will be interesting to see how they perform over the years ahead.

More blog posts by AndrewR

Previous post: Magpie

Next post: 'Devonia' is open again



The flowers do have subtle charm, but the leaves are quite large for a small modern garden.

16 Apr, 2016


I like them particularly Seagull and Albatross.

16 Apr, 2016


I like each one very much but Albatross is my favourite. A fascinating ' experiment ' of yours and I hope they all do well in your garden under the apple tree.

16 Apr, 2016


You have a nice collection. Will only look nice year by year.

16 Apr, 2016


I like them too. They have a fragility that many modern ones have lost.

16 Apr, 2016


I must admit they do look nicer than the ones we see in most of our gardens, many daffs now are blowsy it you get my meaning.....

17 Apr, 2016


I missed those programmes. They will look great when they spread. I might try some for next year and have made a note of the company you bought from - thank you.

18 Apr, 2016


Linmar You can still view these episodes on YouTube at your leisure. I much prefer to view them online - no commercials. My TV is slowly becoming obsolete, lol!

19 Apr, 2016


A lovely blog, Andrew.....what a beauty that 'Seagull' is.

20 Apr, 2016


Mar 2020. .
I too have watched the whole series of Garden revival, especially the episode with Carol Klein last year
I love Narcissus, and decided to buy some heritage bulbs from Scamps Bulbs as well this was 2019
Mine haven’t flowered yet, yours are lovely .
I bought Van Sion, Mrs Langtry , Duchess of Westminster, Sulphur Phoenix and Binkie.
Just received my catalogue for delivery in sept 2020 ,
So ordering some more.
As this post was 2016 , wondered how your bulbs progressed. Did they multiply ?

11 Mar, 2020


Very nice blog, especially pic #1

11 Mar, 2020


Greavsie - they are still performing but not really increasing

11 Mar, 2020

Add a comment

Recent posts by AndrewR

Members who like this blog

  • Gardening with friends since
    13 May, 2014

  • Gardening with friends since
    23 Jun, 2014

  • Gardening with friends since
    10 Mar, 2012

  • Gardening with friends since
    25 Feb, 2011

  • Gardening with friends since
    1 Oct, 2013

  • Gardening with friends since
    21 Nov, 2013

  • Gardening with friends since
    12 Feb, 2009

  • Gardening with friends since
    22 Oct, 2008

  • Gardening with friends since
    26 Feb, 2008

  • Gardening with friends since
    29 May, 2013

  • Gardening with friends since
    17 Nov, 2014