The story of the King Alfred Daffodil has become somewhat of a myth in the world of flowers and flower bulbs. While many online retailers offer big, bright yellow flowers bearing the name of King Alfred the Great, a 9th century Anglo-Saxon ruler, the truth is that fewer than 500 true King Alfred bulbs are commercially produced each year.
The bulbs sold in the United Kingdom under the name of King Alfred are not actually the official King Alfred Daffodil recognized by horticultural authorities. Instead, they are hybrids that have improved upon the original cultivar. These "King Alfred-type" or "King Alfred Improved" daffodils are often varieties such as Dutch Master, Rijnveld's Early Sensation, Marieke, or Golden Harvest. These varieties are usually hardier and produce larger flowers than the original King Alfred Daffodil. However, in the UK, gardeners are used to calling any tall yellow narcissus by the name of King Alfred, making it one of the most famous types of daffodils.
The original King Alfred Daffodil was developed by John Kendall in England at the end of the 19th century and was commercialized by his sons. This flower was a "large bloom of rich uniform gold, and thick substance" and was awarded a First-class Certificate by the Royal Horticultural Society. These true King Alfred Daffodils are smaller and more delicate than their descendants but still elegant.
As newer and more marketable varieties came along, growers allocated more of their fields to these new types and less to the older types. By the 1930s, the original King Alfred Daffodil was no longer being produced at a large scale.
The story of the King Alfred Daffodil illustrates how common plant names can take on a life of their own, independent of a plant's scientific name or its officially registered name. While some sellers may try to deceive their customers, others may just be responding to customer demand by offering bulbs that meet their expectations.
Dutch grower Eric Breed is likely the only person in The Netherlands still producing the original King Alfred cultivar, with an output of about 400-500 bulbs per year. His aim is to preserve the old varieties for their charm and for hybridizing to make new varieties. The King Alfred Daffodil may have disappeared from commercial production, but it can still be found growing in old estate gardens.
Conclusion: Does the King Alfred Daffodil has a bit of a celebrity status among daffodils? Yes, it's true! This famous daffodil has made its appearance in numerous books, songs, and even movies. It's no wonder that gardeners and flower enthusiasts are enamored by its sunny, bright-yellow blooms. And although the true King Alfred Daffodil may be rare, its legend continues to live on, as its name is synonymous with tall, yellow daffodils in the United Kingdom. So, the next time you spot a tall, bright-yellow daffodil, you can thank the King Alfred for its fame and popularity!