Debut Daffodil Festival puts Scotland’s Backhouse Daffodils on the map

2017, the year of Scotland’s History, Heritage and Archaeology, was the perfect time to launch Scotland’s first Daffodil Festival. It was held on 15-16 April at Backhouse Rossie Estate in Fife. It was a great success with visitors enjoying woodland walks, an egg hunt, artisan stalls, talks, planting demonstrations, nine-hole putting and, of course, the beautifully set out and comprehensive National Plant Collection of Backhouse Daffodils. The weather on the Saturday was stunning, but a little chillier on Sunday.

R & A Scamp put on a brilliant display of dozens of different varieties of daffodil and made many of them available for sale.

Caroline Thomson a direct descendant of the Backhouse family started the Collection of  the family Heritage Daffodils after her mother Lady Georgina Buchan-Hepburn  raised concerns that many of the daffodil cultivars bred by three generations of Caroline’s Backhouse forebears  from the mid 1800’s  to 1962, were disappearing. That’s quite a botanical heritage to conserve for future generations!

The Collection achieved National Plant Collection status in September 2016 and this month Caroline, her husband Andrew and son Hamish, opened the doors of Backhouse Rossie Estate to celebrate the importance of the Daffodil, past and present, to Scotland. Visitors enjoyed learning about the Backhouse family, who were Quakers, and their key daffodils, some of which changed daffodil breeding forever and caused quite a sensation in their day, all of which were flowering in the garden for the Festival weekend.

Information boards with QR codes about the daffodil breeding dynasty of the Backhouse family, funded by the Brother Bursary awarded by Plant Heritage.

Stephen Gethins MP for North East Fife launched the event on 11 April by sponsoring a motion in the Houses of Parliament recognising the importance of the work being carried out at Backhouse Rossie Estate.

George Anderson MBE opening the festival with Lady Georgina’s scissors.

Beechgrove Garden presenter and President of the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society, George Anderson MBE, opened the festival using a pair of Caroline’s mother, Lady GE Buchan-Hepburn’s, sewing scissors, to cut the ribbon as it was she who first raised concerns about conserving the daffodils during the restoration of the walled garden at Rossie Estate. Sadly Lady Georgina was not well enough to attend but the scissors were her proxy!

William Rennie MSP opening the new Backhouse Heritage and Education Centre, with Caroline Thompson.

William Rennie MSP and Head of the Scottish Liberal Party cut the ribbon to the new Backhouse Heritage and Education Centre on the Easter Sunday, to great applause. Three of the 290 Backhouse specimens from the Herbarium at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh were on display which visitors greatly enjoyed seeing and asked many questions about. The specimens will be on show until May.

The Grampian and Tayside group of Plant Heritage and in particular, Frances Tait, made a significant contribution to the organising of the Festival. Frances and National Plant Collection Holder, Madeleine Tinson, were on hand on both days to provide advice where needed, to respond to the many enquiries about Plant Heritage and to have a botanical blether with the many visitors to the stand. The G&T stand was situated next to the Brodie Castle stand, a National Trust of Scotland property which has the National Plant Collection of Brodie Daffodils. The Group even managed to arrange for Brodie property manager Malcolm to give a talk to the Group later in the year about the history of its daffodils.

The Grampian & Tayside Group’s display.

So, all in all, a great day for the public, for the daffodils, for the Backhouse family descendants who opened the estate at their home Backhouse Rossie and quite definitely, for Plant Heritage.

Find out more about the National Plant Collection of Narcissus (Backhouse cvs.) and (Brodie cvs.) on the Plant Heritage website.

All images taken and supplied by Caroline’s son Hamish.