Daffodils at Cotehele

Daffodils and a garden bench at Cotehele, Cornwall

Spring is a dazzling time to explore Cotehele as the garden and countryside fill with sunny daffodils from February to May.

Seagulls and Sunrise: an audio companion for your visit

As you travel to or from Cotehele, hear the landscape come alive with stories and memories. Discover the amazing history of market gardening and hear from local people who were at the heart of an industry that flourished for 150 years. 

A bright and colourful illustration of the River Tamar and Cotehele quay with daffodils in the foreground

 

Where to find daffodils at Cotehele

Daffodils start to emerge from mid-February, signalling the imminent arrival of spring, and continue to flower through into May. Different varieties take centre stage at different times.  

The sunny plants flower all over the estate, but can particularly be found across from the Barn Restaurant, in the meadow behind the house and in the old orchard.  

A bank of daffodils at Cotehele, Cornwall
A bank of daffodils at Cotehele, Cornwall
A bank of daffodils at Cotehele, Cornwall
" ‘Daffodils are a welcome sight after a long winter, with the first glimpse of bright yellow reminding us that spring is on its way.’ "
- Dave Bouch

Cotehele's special daffodil varieties

Cotehele estate holds a variety of daffodils, ranging from tiny multi-flowered tête-à-têtes, which often appear early in the season, to the ruffled petals of the so-called butter and eggs. There’s so much diversity in the colour, petal shape and size. 

Many of the seedlings are supplied by local daffodil grower Dan du Plessis, but some varieties date to the 17th century. Most are 19th-century hybrids, the surviving remnants of a major flower industry that once thrived along the Tamar valley. 

 

History of daffodils at Cotehele

The Tamar Valley has been home to daffodil growing for centuries. The warm, wet climate and steep, south-facing banks of the river catch the early spring sunshine, meaning crops arrive earlier than the rest of the country. 

In the past, smallholders grew fruit, flowers and vegetables in small plots known as market gardens. Early daffodil varieties included Golden Harvest and Fortune. Bulbs were planted by hand and the flowers were picked and packed for sale by local families and communities. 

 

" We are particularly proud of our collection; it pays tribute to the heritage of the Tamar Valley while showing off nature at her finest."
- Dave Bouch

 

Big business in the Tamar Valley

When the railway was extended into Cornwall in the 19th century, the market garden industry boomed, with daffodils at centre stage. Daffodils had long been packed onto barges, like the Shamrock, and sailed down the River Tamar to be sold at Devonport Market.  

However, the new railway link meant the daffodils could distributed around the country. At the industry’s peak, as many as 10,000 people were employed to pick and pack daffodils. 

The Tamar Valley became famous for its rare and interesting varieties. This included the indigenous Tamar Double White, which produced beautiful, fragrant flowers late in the season. These were sent to Covent Garden individually in blue tissue-lined boxes. 

 

Each spring, daffodils burst from the bank opposite the Barn restaurant, guiding visitors into a collection of more than 300 varieties
The meadow opposite the Barn restaurant at Cotehele with its dazzling daffodil display
Each spring, daffodils burst from the bank opposite the Barn restaurant, guiding visitors into a collection of more than 300 varieties

Second World War changes 

Everything changed during the Second World War. Daffodil market gardens made way for food crops to help support the war effort. The daffodil bulbs were lifted and planted into the nearby hedgerows. 

The daffodil industry may have declines, but the bright flowers still burst from the hedgerows and countryside each spring. It’s a vivid reminder of the valley’s heritage. 

Find out more about the wider history of daffodils across the National Trust’s different sites on the discovering daffodils article.

 

Help care for the daffodils 

Caring for this historic collection of flowers is possible thanks to the contributions from our members, visitors and volunteers. To help keep Cotehele’s daffodils blooming for future generations, visit our website and donate.