REPLY2: 'KING ALFRED' daffodil -- was Pacific BX 89

Jim McKenney
Wed, 18 May 2005 17:05:22 PDT
Thanks, Dave, for this detailed reply. It adds to my knowledge of the King
Alfred story: I was not aware, for  instance, that Kendall had died in 1890.

When I wrote "but I wouldn't be surprised if confusion about the true 'King
Alfred' began shortly afterward - if only because demand was so great right
from the start" I didn't have in mind confusion among those who would know
better. Of course the great daffodil hybridizers of the time would not have
been fooled. What I was alluding to was the huge public preoccupation with
the name King Alfred. Even as late as the '30s of the last century (about
forty years after King Alfred germinated) there was intense interest in
establishing a domestic crop of King Alfred in the Pacific Northwest. No
doubt lots of smaller growers wanted in on the action. 

With that in mind, consider the progress which was being made in daffodils
in the meantime: even Calvert's book from 1929 illustrates many daffodils
which seem to be much better than King Alfred. It seems to me that the
market conditions were ripe for mischief: King Alfred was soon surpassed by
better hybrids, the public wanted the name King Alfred, and many growers
doubtless saw no sense in investing in what was by then a back number,
especially when the public evidently didn't know the difference.

Your correspondent gave some added insight in quoting Barr's article on the
state of Engleheart's seedlings in 1933. Maybe those daffodils I see
illustrated in Calvert were not really much better than King Alfred. That
seems to shoot down my belief that great progress had been made during the
thirty years since King Alfred's introduction. 

You have no idea how happy it makes me when some offhand comment of mine
stirs up what to me is new information, new insights, obscure details,
traditions not recorded in the usual literature and so on. I wish it
happened more often!

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, where the garden if full of
roses, bearded iris, peonies, waterlilies, Eremurus, poppies and the most
lush, green foliage of the year. 

-----Original Message-----
From: []
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Sent: Tuesday, May 17, 2005 10:39 PM
Subject: [pbs] REPLY2: 'KING ALFRED' daffodil -- was Pacific BX 89

Jim, et al ~

> Whether or not the true King Alfred still exists in commerce is a question

> I
> have often pondered. What is certain, however, is that King Alfred was
> illustrated in various publications early in the twentieth century.
> 'King Alfred' is old enough to have received an FCC in 1899 according to
> Calvert (I don't know how to reconcile that date with what follows). 
> According to Calvert "It was in 1901 that raisers had the shock of their
> lives when the little known Mr. Kendall put King Alfred before the R.H.S.
> Narcissus Committee." Calvert goes on to say that Kendall had raised a
> of 'King Alfred' before showing it, and that one hundred bulbs were
> to have changed hands that first year. I can't cite an example, but I
> wouldn't be surprised if confusion about the true 'King Alfred' began
> shortly afterward - if only because demand was so great right from the
> start.

I sent your comments on to a friend of mine, a respected grower of daffodils

and an authority in his own right, for his reply.  He has a strong interest
history, in particular as it applies to daffodils, and has a considerably 
library to do the research.  What follows are his comments on your original 
message which I thought would be of wider interest since the King Alfred
issue has 
had a lengthy run recently!

"King Alfred did receive a FCC from the RHS on March 22nd 1899, this cannot 
be disputed.   It is clearly in the Register for 1899, also in Bourne's 
marvellous book of 1903 stating the month, March 22, and the year 1899 when
the award 
was made.      It also states clearly in Calvert's book, FCC-RHS 1899, on 
each black and white plate of King Alfred No. 24 and 25.
As for the suggestion that King Alfred may have been muddled from the start,

this is simply unbelievable as too many important raisers of the day grew
bred with this variety, namely Engleheart, Brodie of Brodie, Guy L. Wilson, 
N.Y. Lower, P.D. Williams and W.F.M. Copeland whose photo of five blooms was

printed in Bourne's book opposite page 42.   This photo is a very clear
black and 
white print of what true King Alfred should appear like, and it would have 
been taken pre 1903.   King Alfred would be the ancestor, in many cases
times over, of practically every exhibition yellow trumpet in existance
In an excellent article by Peter R. Barr, VMH, titled "The Renaissance of
Daffodil in Britain" printed in the RHS Daffodil Year Book 1933 (No. 4) page

29.  Writing on Engleheart's daffodils, he states:  "Of more recent years,
Maximus seedlings are coming to the front, but I do not think they will oust

King Alfred, that wonderful golden trumpet Daffodil raised by John Kendall, 
and which his sons in 1900 offered at 6 pounds 6 shillings a bulb."    

(and on page 32, same article)  

"I must not omit to refer to Mr John Kendall, a solicitor, who raised the 
finest and most popular yellow trumpet daffodil we know to-day, namely, King

Alfred, said to be a cross between Maximus and Emperor.   Unfortunately Mr. 
Kendall, who died in 1890, did not live to see it bloom."

As for the confusion you state that exists with the Calvert description,
can one say?  It seems to be in genuine conflict with the facts.  I would 
trust the reply before I did Calvert who was a nurseryman, first off, and 
published the book much as a catalog as treatise on daffodils.  As far as I
know, he 
was not a skilled daffodil grower/breeder as were the others quoted in the 
reply, in particular, Engleheart, Wilson and The Brodie.

There you are.  I should well imagine the shock the august members of the
Committee must have experienced in seeing the ghost of the late Mr. Kendall 
appear before them in that meeting some eleven years after his death!

Incidentally, stock of the true 'King Alfred' still exists.  I have a few 
bulbs of it as an historical curiosity, the blooms from which I will
exhibit just for people to see the real thing.

Dave Karnstedt

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