There are over 300 daffodil cultivars planted at Cotehele, some of them dating back to the seventeenth century. Inspired by these early and unusual flowers the garden team at Cotehele successfully applied for project funding to research the historic varieties and the Tamar Valley market garden industry. This once thriving industry suffered a fatal blow during the period of the second world war when growers were required to reduce the acreage dedicated to daffodils, by fifty percent year on year, in order to meet the country’s need for home grown fruit and vegetables. As a consequence many flowers were lost forever but some still remain, precariously perched in the hedgerows, where they were tossed when the fields were cleared.
The Cotehele Daffodil project managed to rescue and identify some of these historic cultivars and rehomed them at Cotehele. There are also seedlings from the late Cornish daffodil grower Dan du Plessis planted at Cotehele in the area known as Mrs Julyan’s garden.
Each year the Cotehele daffodils and the Tamar Valley daffodil industry is celebrated in a weekend of guided daffodil walks, an exhibition of the historic Tamar valley daffodil industry and a marquee displaying historic and modern varieties from representatives of current Cornish growers.
Cotehele daffodils start to flower in February each year and the National Trust website has details of the Daffodil weekends. I visited on March 22/23 2014 when many of the flowers were in full bloom. This years later season meant that there were still plenty of flowers in bud so there is still time to see the orchard and garden displays.
The National Trust have published a booklet on the project entitles Phoenix, Pheasants and Fortunes: the story of Cotehele’s daffodils priced £1.00.
If you visit the area be sure to drive around the hedgerows around Cotehele and St Dominick to see the hedgerow daffodils in full bloom.