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Hever Castle near Tonbridge launches new Dazzling Daffodils spring time event with 14,000 daffodils on show

By Angela Cole

There will be some 14,000 Golden Joys, Sealing Waxes and Tahitis blooming around Hever Castle this month.

They're all types of daffodils, and you'll find them in yellow - but also in orange, white and even pink.

Contrary to what you may have thought, there are dozens of varieties of the spring-like treat - and you'll find many of them at the castle.

The Dazzling Daffodils at Hever Castle don't just come in plain yellow
The Dazzling Daffodils at Hever Castle don't just come in plain yellow

The gardening team there are so proud of their floral feat, they have launched the new event, Dazzling Daffodils, to celebrate them.

From Tahiti to Birma and Worcester to High Society, they'll all be standing to attention for the five-day event in the grounds at Anne Boleyn’s childhood home.

It will throw the spotlight on the narcissus family and showcase the new and the best in daffodils.

Daffodils at Hever Castle
Daffodils at Hever Castle

Master grower Johnny Walkers of Walkers’ Bulbs, winner of 35 RHS gold medals, will be on hand, giving talks and tours and sharing his encyclopaedic knowledge of bulbs accrued over a lifetime growing them, including his unique preparations for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

"I’m looking forward to working with the team at Hever Castle. I was most impressed with everything that I saw there, the way the gardens are laid out and the enthusiasm of the gardeners that I met. I’m looking forward to sharing my passion for daffodils across the four days that I’ll be at the castle. I enjoy passing on my passion for the plants and my knowledge."

The Malvern City
The Malvern City

The team have ordered a further 7,000 bulbs to boost their display. Head gardener Neil Miller said: "Visitors to the Dazzling Daffodil festival will really be able to absorb narcissus information from the bulb master Johnny Walkers. We are so looking forward to leading visitors through Anne Boleyn’s orchard with Johnny to get a closer look at the daffodils there. We have ordered a further 7,000 bulbs to augment our already established display there so it should look fantastic."

Visitors should be on the look-out for new varieties, some being seen for the first time at Hever Castle.

DETAILS

Dazzling Daffodils runs from Wednesday, March 21 to Sunday, March 25. Opening times are 10.30am to 3pm, with admission included in normal admission prices. More details at hevercastle.co.uk

The Tahiti
The Tahiti


JOHNNY'S PRIZED PICKS

When it comes to growing perfect daffs, learn from a master.

Johnny Walkers, a man who has achieved narcissus perfection, has won 35 RHS gold medals, 28 from the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and 24 golds in succession.

As he goes for his 25th gold this year, he said: "In order to win gold you have to make sure that the display is perfect. Once you’ve got to the top it’s so easy to relax and say ‘it will do’, but you can’t afford to do that with the RHS, the standard is very high and you only have to drop one point to lose your gold medal."

Johnny’s stand at RHS Chelsea is unlike any other and his mantra has always been that the public should see as good a show as The Queen sees when she visits. "In order to do this we have to have enough daffodils in reserve to be able to re-stage the exhibit on the Wednesday night."

He prepares 8,000 daffodils in cold storage and uses 2,000 to build his exhibit on the first weekend. The team works through the day to create the exhibit and during the week he travels back and forth to Holbeach, where the remaining flowers are in cold storage.

"As far as I’m concerned if you’re showing to the public they’ve paid good money and if you want them to buy your product you have to show you’re willing to put in the effort. The public can see that if you’re willing to go that extra mile and put on a good stand then you’ll be equally attentive to perfection when you’re putting their order together and sending it off."

Daffodils will be dazzling at Hever Castle
Daffodils will be dazzling at Hever Castle

There’s actually quite a lot to growing good daffodils, as Johnny explains. "You need a good moisture retentive, well drained soil. It’s important to plant in the autumn rather than leaving it to December when the soil’s too cold. It’s also essential to buy good sized bulbs - in the bulb world size does matter!"

And here's a myth he's busting: "Never cut or tie your daffodils after flowering, leave them to die down naturally," he said. "If you tie them or stress them, they will die - remember, a bulb is a plant and needs careful tending."

Johnny was born with a bulb pedigree - his Dutch parents were growers and he went on to join the English co-operative Lingarden before building a world-famous bulb mail order business. He and the Hever team have been working hard behind the scenes on the new event for months.

Daffodil Tours

Led by Hever’s head gardener, Neil Miller, and Walkers Bulbs’ Johnny Walkers - winner of 24 consecutive golds at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show - the tours take visitors around the grounds, giving information about the gardens, the variety of daffodils chosen for the 2018 planting scheme and the process of growing daffodils in the UK at 11am for an hour.

Talk: Every Show has a Story

Johnny gives an insider’s view of the thrills and spills behind the scenes at flowers shows such as Chelsea and Harrogate and reveals the hard work and dedication required to be a winner. Times: Noon, for around 20 minutes.

Watching over the gardens at Hever castle
Watching over the gardens at Hever castle

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