Friday, 9 March 2012

Brodie Daffs

This year the daffodils are out early. St David's Day is 1 March and in Wales is traditionally marked with the wearing of daffodils. Normally there are none in Scotland until later in the month. This is the first year I can recall daffodils being in bloom in Central Scotland on St David's Day.

Pink-harled Brodie castle:

If you like daffodils, the premier place is Brodie Castle near Forres, home of the national narcissus collection. For someone unversed in horticulture, it may seem astonishing that there is a national collection of daffodil species. But why not? It is comforting to think there are people out there dedicating their lives to preserving daffodils.

In the walled garden:

From 1899 to 1943, the 24th Laird of Brodie, Ian Brodie, grew and propagated new daffodil species. A kind and sensitive man, he was deeply affected by his war experience, and on his retiral from the army in 1917 took solace in his daffs, cross-breeding 25,000 seedlings. These were meticulously logged in his notebooks and only 414 were deemed worthy of being named.

Two of the unusual varieties grown at Brodie:

According to local historian Margaret Woodward, there were several mishaps with the breeding programme, including this one:
a group of children, wishing to make a toy farmyard, tumbled the bulbs from several separate labelled boxes into one. The irreversible mixing of six years of breeding results earned the oldest child, who confesses she should have known better, two days on bread and water.
In 1978 the 25th Laird, short of money, decided to sell Brodie castle to the National Trust, against his children's wishes. The castle is now open from Easter till September, and the gardens all year round.

The classic view:

I have a confession to make. Last year we took the plunge and entered the realm of middle-age and middle-class. We joined the National Trust. For the rest of the year we only flashed our cards at another two sites. Many National Trust sites (Glencoe, Kintail) are free to visit, and many of the most interesting cared for castles and other historic sites in Scotland are not under NTS care (Historic Scotland, for example, does not have membership compatible with NTS, a real shame).

But there are still a few months left on our membership. Expect a slew of posts from National Trust sites over the coming months!

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