You all know the story. In 1956 Basil Leng,was driving from his home in the south of France to Portugal, between Christmas and New Year. The weather was warm and lovely all along the north coast of Spain. West of Oviedo the road ran towards the sea and just before coming into a tiny fishing village, Luarca, he saw a clump of daffodils in full flower. They were high on a steep bank just before the railway viaduct. He parked his car near to the bank and climbed onto the roof but couldn’t reach the daffodils. At that point a girl who was passing realised what he was trying to do and jumped onto the roof, scrambled up the bank and tried to pick him a flower. The whole clump came out, showering the car with stones and soil, and proved to be 50 bulbs. The rest is history. He distributed the bulbs among friends and they are now widely grown. In cultivation they flower from late October into November, are perfectly hardy and a glorious sight just as the winter is beginning to get a grip. In fact, the cold ensures that they last in good condition for ages. Basil Leng gave permission to Beth Chatto to name it after his friend and travelling companion Cedric Morris, the celebrated painter, after Cedric’s death. In 2008 John Blanchard published a letter kindly passed on by Kath Dryden (do keep up) where Basil Leng described the finding in detail and issued a sort of challenge: “However I don’t doubt that the narcissus is growing in that region and presumably tends to flower in Autumn or winter according to weather conditions and some one should go and search for it about now in the coast or near-coast region of Luarca where there is quite a nice hotel. But it needs quite a lot of enthusiasm as it rains quite a lot along there and though it probably doesn’t get dark before 5.30pm as it is so far west, there is that ghastly period till 9 or 9.30pm before you can get your supper and go to bed and also quite a lot of bother getting breakfast in the morning.” Well, who could resist that? We went the following year in late October, stayed in Luarca and looked at every blade of grass in Asturias, with no success. We ate a lot of wonderful fish (you can watch it coming in), discovered that you are given a little cup of bean stew with your cerveza and thoroughly enjoyed the trip. Last year we went in December, calling to see Jim Pearce on the way to the airport and found his clump of ‘Cedric Morris’ in bud. Feeling sure we would find it this time we returned to our hotel in Luarca for another fruitless week of searching. There are many lovely valleys running south from the coast (your satnav will tell you that you are lost) and it feels like being lost in a previous century. Both trips had warm, often sunny weather, while alarming news came from England that Heathrow was closed due to snow and ice. Indeed, when we finally got back to Stansted in late December our car took some digging out.
The postscript is that a packet of bulbs arrived in July from our friend, the noted historian and conserver of florist’s flowers Timothy Clark of Soham. It contained two sets of bulbs, Bowles Early Sulphur and ta-da, Cedric Morris. He had taken pity on us and dug up some of his large clump. In late November they flowered, looking delightful. Does this mean that we have given up hope of seeing them in the wild? Go figure.