A host of golden daffodils…

Daffodil fields at Rookery Farm, Norfolk

Daffodils: Their yellow trumpet heads are the epitome of spring and they have been the inspiration for many a poet and artist. And this year, the daffodil is playing its part in beating back the dark curtains of winter as it puts in an early appearance on Rookery Farm.

Early daffodils herald spring

The daffodil is one flower that really signals the end to the dark, cold winter months. It’s yellow flowers herald the start of spring. Normally, you would expect to see British daffodils in the shops from February onwards. This year, the residents of Holt and the surrounding villages have been able to brighten up their homes with locally-grown daffodils from the middle of January.

This is because local farmer Robert McNeil-Wilson’s 100 acres of the beautiful plants have made an early appearance. “The picking season is normally from the last week of January until mid-April, but we are a week earlier than expected this year.” explains Robert. “We are actually three weeks earlier than last year.”

Champion of local produce

Courtesy of Rookery Farm, the daffodils are in the Budgens store in Holt. Owner Mike Baker is a champion of all things local. Mr Baker has been selling Rookery Farm daffodils for the past couple of weeks much to the Holt resident’s delight. Robert and his team of 45 hard-working pickers has been working all hours to keep up with demand.

“These dedicated workers pick daffodils in all weathers,” says Robert. “Given a kind growing season and a receptive market this enables me to harvest in excess of 1,000,000 bunches, (10,000,000 stems).

“Despite the weeks of rain and cold temperatures, we have had exceptionally early blooms this year,” says Robert. “And I think people are enjoying adding a touch of spring to their homes with these beautiful, iconic flowers.”

Lighting up the landscape

The daffodils are just one of many crops holidaymakers at Rookery Farm can see as they walk around the farm’s footpaths.

As a premium crop Daffodils are a pretty addition to the countryside. They are a crop that has a two-year growing cycle. They are planted in September and then left for a year to develop and grow. Daffodils are a dual purpose crop, producing cut flowers in the spring and then bulbs in the summer.

Robert sells many of his stems locally in super markets and greengrocers and exports 60-70 per cent overseas, either to Europe or USA.

Examples of flower varieties include Golden Lady, Dutch Master, Rembrandt, Unsurpassable, St Patricks Day, Golden Ducat and Standard Value. Bulb varieties would be Ice Follies, White Lion, Barrett Browning, Pink Pride and Salome. Robert grows 20 varieties of daffodil. This is a deliberate strategy to get the most from the growing season as the plants flower at different times. The most important time of year for the daffodil market is around Mothering Sunday and Easter.

If you are visiting Rookery Farm this springtime, take a moment to go for a wander and admire the ‘host of golden daffodils’.