The Incomparable Daffodil
Victorians adored daffodils. They were grown in huge numbers for the market gardens – more daffodils were sold than any other kind of flower. They were beautiful flowers, and they flowered early – enough to ensure their popularity, especially in the smog-choked cities.
Then, as now, there were a large variety of daffodils available either for sale or as a bulb to the discerning gardener. The group known as Lent Lilies, or trumpet daffodils, including varieties such as Telamonius, Empress, Emperor, and Maximus. There were also the group known as the Incomparabilis, a group of ‘nodding’ daffodils that came out later than the Lent Lilies. Then there was the Poet group of daffodils (the Narcissus poeticus) which were white or orange with ring in the centre of the flower. There was also the polyanthus group of daffodils, or the Narcissus tazetta, which produced flowers in clusters, or umbrals.
Finally came the Corbularia group of daffodils, or Narcissus corbularia. These has very large trumpets, the outer petals being much reduced, and were grown extensively in pots for indoors.
These five groups were the most popular, but there were at least twenty other varieties Victorian gardeners could choose if they wished to hunt them down.
There was also, naturally, the native variety over which Wordsworth enthused, but which did not, apparently, appear in many formal gardens.
Information and image taken from F. Edward Hulme and Shirley Hibberd, Familiar Garden Flowers (Cassell, Peter, Galpin and Co.: London: c. 1890), 5 vols