Surprisingly, therefore, I thoroughly enjoyed my stay. I was attending part of a weekend convention, organised by my great friend Margaret Owen, devoted to the study of old daffodil cultivars, bred by the first couple of generations of breeders to play around with hybridising the species. Since a trip last year to the Pyrenees and the Picos de Europa I have become an enthusiast for Narcissus species but I have never liked hybrid 'daffs', especially in their blowsy modern incarnations.
|Margaret Owen (Roger Norman and Angela Whinfield in the background)|
Listening to Margaret speak is a bit like watching a mountain torrent flow. While telling us about the places we were to visit the following day, she managed to launch broadsides against Plant Heritage, the National Trust and the RHS, all of which toadying organisations richly deserve to be buried beneath vast mountains of opprobrium. Margaret, as the victims of her many campaigns will attest, does not take prisoners and I don't believe there was a member of the audience not won over by her unique combination of conviction and determination. Long live MO.
On Saturday morning the Narcissus bus visited two churchyards which had been planted with daffodils by the incumbent vicars in the nineteenth century. If all priests had confined themselves to such useful and harmless activities we might be in less trouble today. The plants that we saw were exceedingly diverse but, although no-one present was able confidently to name them, it was clear that the original clones are still flourishing. When I wondered out loud why seedlings hadn't supplanted the named varieties, John Grimshaw pointed out that many of the hybrids are polyploid and sterile. It really struck me that many of these early hybrids are graceful in a way that has been entirely lost in the contemporaneous monstrosities that the current generation of breeders are producing.
We had lunch at Lloyd Kenyon's extraordinary home. The man himself was in Italy, admiring magnolias in the company of other members of the International Dendrological Society, but he had graciously arranged soup and sandwiches and allowed us to wander through the grounds and admire the sheets of daffodils and his ever-expanding collection of trees and shrubs.
|John Grimshaw and John Fielding discussing Narcissus cultivars, or something.|
|John Grimshaw and hairy fat bastard|