Steve Hampson has been planting daffodils since he was a little boy growing up in New York. When Hampson moved to California nine years ago to join Roger’s Gardens as a horticulturist, he brought that passion with him. He’s still not sure exactly what sparked his love for the trumpet-shaped flower, but today Hampson travels the world in search of wild daffodils and recently raised a national champion.
Hampson and his friends have 34 sites in the wild in Portugal and Spain that they plan to visit using GPS coordinates. The goal, he said, is to examine the variation in the species and collect pollen or seeds.
There are about 30,000 registered daffodils, some hybrids dating back to the 17th century, he said. A couple of his friends actually started a search engine just for people looking for daffodils (Narcissus), called Daffseek. The International Daffodil Register also keeps an impressive list, he said.
When he’s not chasing daffodils across the Atlantic and beyond, Hampson spends time growing his own specialty plants. He is currently the regional director for the Pacific Region of the American Daffodil Society.
“There are basically two kinds of daffodils, garden ones and show ones,” he said. “I spend a lot of time growing them and exhibiting them.”
Recently one of Hampson’s show daffodils won the gold ribbon for the best standard in a show sponsored by the American Daffodil Society.
“It just comes down to growing good varieties and I have a critical eye when selecting the flower,” said Hampson, who is also an accredited flower judge. “There may be only one perfect flower out of a hundred. It’s being able to spot a flower that’s worthy of winning.”
Hampson said daffodils are judged by the shape and textures of the petals, for their pristine nature and by their colors.
Although most daffodils bloom starting February and run through March or April, he said there are some that are Fall blooming. Besides their ability to spread into large stands of color in a landscape, they are all deer and rabbit resistant. And they are not limited to yellow. One of the most popular varieties that comes back year after year is called Ice Follies, which has a white flower. And of coure, everyone loves their Paper Whites.
“When people think of daffodils, they think of bright yellow,” Hampson said. “But there are ones (hybrids) that are orange, cream and even pink.”
Hampson, who has numerous flower favorites, including orchids, aloes and water lilies, said besides searching for them and raising them, he also enjoys daffodils in his yard for their sheer beauty. “It’s just what grabs you. Who knows why you like something, but you just do.”