Why daffodils on St Martin’s remind us of our farming heritage

It’s funny where you find random clusters of daffodils on St. Martin’s. At this time of year, it’s especially noticeable when you take a walk around the island. Rather than spotting any blossom trying to cling haplessly to trees as the westerly breezes blow through, the presence of Spring makes itself felt by the arrival of numerous clumps of daffs poking through the short grass – having survived unattended for years. It makes you wonder, who planted them all those years ago?

Clusters of daffodils found on St Martin's - probably where bulbs were once dumped.

Clusters of daffodils found on St Martin’s – probably where bulbs were once dumped.            

Daffodils were once grown commercially on the islands – but that’s not really the case today. Scilly-based flower farmers switched from growing regular daffs to the more familiar scented “tazetta” style narcissi we grow today when it became evident that farmers based on the mainland were able to produce ordinary daffodils far more efficiently than us here on the islands. Why? Because unlike “tazetta” narcissi, daffs need a cold period before flowering and this is why they prosper so well in places like Lincolnshire. The scented narcissi we grow don’t need a cold spell – in fact they need a warm spell which is why we put polythene over the crop in the summer and enjoy harvesting from as early as Halloween.

Fields of flowers you see these days are orderly planted in rows

Fields of flowers you see these days are orderly planted in rows

Despite not growing them commercially any more, we do still love to see all the haphazard daffodils across St. Martin’s. The flowers pop up all over the place in rows in fields and amassed in places where bulbs have been dumped. The market must have been lucrative in the early years as some of the fields where people tried to grow them were really exposed…. you can tell because you can still make out the formation of planted rows.

Daffodils are found in many exposed places

Daffodils are found in many exposed places

There are all sorts of different varieties that appear around and about – from the delicate Campernelle narcissus to the heavy double-headed varieties. You can also spot an Ice Folly which, as the name suggests, has very white petals compared with more common bright yellow and orange daffs.

So as we approach the end of our scented narcissi season here on Scilly, we can still savour the abandoned clusters of daffodils, and the colourful past of our farming forefathers.

Check this link if you want to find out more about the difference between daffodils and scented narcissi.

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