Clearing up the confusion over 'King Alfred'
Thu, 19 May 2005 17:53:04 PDT
Hello all ~

Yet further information on 'King Alfred' from John Hunter of New Zealand, a 
noted breeder of daffodils, the respected historian of the Daffodil Society of 
New Zealand and the individual to whom I presented the original issue for 
analysis.  I greatly respect this man's opinion since, over his considerable 
lifetime, he actually grown and observed (and extensively hybridized with) the 
daffodils he discusses.  That, in my experience, is rare!  Although this was 
posted directly to me, I have his permission to send it on to the PBS listserv as 
the final chapter in the saga of King Alfred.

Dave Karnstedt
       It's a pity people do not say exactly from where they derive their 
information.  To quote a page number of a book as well as the author of the 
particular article they write about would be a help in research when something is 
questioned.  After much searching through Calvert's book "Daffodil Growing for 
Pleasure and Profit" 1929, I have found the relevant article that was being 
discussed by your group.  Chapter XXI "The Progress of the Daffodil from 1890 to 
1910" by P. D. Williams, V.M.H. This is making more sense to me now as I can 
see what I believe has happened.

       Peter Barr in his article, states in the 1934 RHS Daffodil Year Book 
"That Kendall's sons in 1900 offered King Alfred bulbs at 6 pounds 6 
shillings."  Then it comes to this article of P. D.  Williams (a year later) in 
Calvert's book where it states that Kendall's sons, in 1901, were selling the bulbs 
for five pounds five shillings.  In 1901, according to P. D.  Williams article, 
they again put blooms of King Alfred before the RHS Committee.  There is no 
reference to any award being given.  This is understandable, as it had already 
received the highest award possible, the FCC in 1899.  I would assume that 
putting KA to the RHS a second time was done purely as a marketing ploy.
       It has to be understood that when flowers are put before the 
certificating committee that they are not necessarily shown by the raiser.  It would 
most likely have been one of Kendall's sons who put the daffodil blooms before 
the committee.  Ghosts, do not come into this!!!!
       The Calvert book, as I have stated on various occasions, is a great 
way to assemble a book for publication.  It is a case of getting the experts of 
the day to all write a chapter, that is then added to your piece on 
cultivation and marketing.

       As stated previously, John Kendall, the raiser of King Alfred died in 
1890 before KA first bloomed.  King Alfred certainly received its FCC award 
from the RHS on March 22nd 1899.  The official description at the time of the 
award is thus:  

King Alfred, Kendall.  Self yellow ajax probably the finest yellow ajax yet 
produced.  Very tall large flower of uniform rich golden colour and of great 
substance, said to be a cross of Maximus and either Emperor or Golden Spur.  
Very graceful perianth, trumpet large, elegant, with open deeply frilled mouth.
       It also has to be understood that the description of flowers one 
hundred years ago bears little relevance to today's standards!  Where they say of 
KA in the 1899 description -- "a large flower of uniform rich golden colour," 
this does not equate with what we would understand as that colouring and size 
today.  If one refers to the current classification register of the RHS, one 
would see that the flowers on average are 98 mm.  I would not now call that 
large.  The colouring is described in the register as vivid yellow 9A and, there 
again, I would not describe this as a rich golden colour.  The variety of 
daffodil KA that I grow here is exactly the colour and averages the size (98mm) as 
recorded.  Also, the blooms resemble the early photographs that I have.

       Most daffodil growers today would not realise how important King 
Alfred has been in the development of division one and two daffodils.  The reason 
why this variety was such a huge advance at the time was the fact that it was 
one of the first tetraploid daffodils (28 chromosomes).  It is well recognised 
that tetraploids represent the optimum characteristics for size and vigour in 
daffodils.  Without the likes of tetraploid King Alfred, it would not be 
possible to have the huge range of marvelous daffodils at this point in time.

       My reply to you, I believe, to be completely accurate.  The sources I 
quoted are thoroughly reliable, as Peter Barr's article included a description 
of all the main raisers of the day.  The Rev. Bourne's "Book of the 
Daffodil," 1903, gives a complete list of RHS Awards of Certificated varieties and 
their descriptions, with months and dates from the very first RHS Award for 
daffodils until 1902.  Two other daffodils are in this list [that were] raised by 

Queen Alexandra April 22nd, 1902, Award of Merit; description -- a fine large 
flower, white perianth, vivid red cup.

Sir Francis Drake, April 8th 1902, Award of Merit, self yellow ajax, 
resembles a huge Emperor, not so deep a yellow as King Alfred and without the marked 
Maximus character.
Here endeth the lesson!!!!!
John (who works on daffodil trivia)

I would add a couple of additional comments to this.  As I understand it, 
both parents of KA were diploid and, thus, KA, is a spontaneous tetraploid.  This 
event was (in those days) not common and, certainly (as John's reply points 
out), represented a watershed event.  I can think of another remarkable 
occasion where this particular event also occurred and that is with the Division 7 
daffodil, 'Quick Step,' a Grant Mitsch seedling.  This is a fully fertile, 
tetraploid jonquil.  Prior to the appearance of this clone, there were no fully 
fertile jonquil hybrids (crosses between a standard daffodil (4n) and one of 
thespecies/forms of N. jonquilla (2n) has always yielded a sterile triploid (3n)). 
 Since then, several others have appeared.  One, in particular, 'Hillstar," 
when combined with some of the remarkable advances in this particular line of 
breeding that John Hunter has produced, is yielding a range of superb 
daffodils, both Spring-blooming and Fall-blooming.  His particular breeding skill has 
been to bring the deep green, Fall-blooming species, N. viridiflorus, into 
combinations with various Spring-blooming daffodils to produce a range of 
wonderful daffodils (in the third generation) that typically bloom in the New Zealand 
equivalent of Winter, i.e., our mid-Summer, June-August!!  The day seems not 
far off when our daffodil season may truly begin in October and end in May!

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