The flower growers of the Scilly Isles: ‘There’s a bit of good fortune and a lot of hard work’

The Isles of Scilly have spectacularly good conditions for growing flowers – particularly the daffodils and other narcissi which we're now seeing everywhere. Pictures by Emily Whitfield-Wicks.

Writing for Country Life last year, Michael Sissons described the Isles of Scilly as ‘extraordinary, magical place’. Miles out into the Atlantic off the tip of Cornwall, these beautiful dots on the map have long drawn visitors entranced by the promise of a holiday that’s quintessentially British yet simultaneously exotic.

Tourism, however, isn’t the only thing that these picturesque isles are famous for. It’s become near-impossible to look for flowers – particularly at this time of year, when narcissi are everywhere – without seeing a ‘Grown in the Scilly Isles’ label.

Narcissus and daffodil growers of the Scilly Isles

There are around 25 narcissi growers on the Scillies, which have perfect conditions for nurturing these jolly little flowers. The warmth that comes with a location in the dead centre of the Gulf Stream is the most obvious natural benefit, but there are others. Many of the fields have high, natural boundaries – bushes, hedgerows and trees – which provide shelter from the wind.

Andrew May, who grows narcissi for Waitrose, adds that the flowers also need a bit of help from both man and Mother Nature if they’re to hit their peak – as they have done this Spring.

‘There’s a bit of good fortune and a lot of hard work,’ he says.

Narcissus and daffodil growers of the Scilly Isles

‘The trigger for them to flower is heat between May and September, and of course we had a perfect summer, so we’ve got a high-yielding crop of good quality.

‘We’ve also had a relatively benign winter and no really bad storms.’

Daffodils can survive and thrive in cooler conditions, but the smaller, scented narcissi breeds ‘need a little more warmth,’ adds Andrew.

With the recent cold snap having been followed very quickly by a couple of weeks of good weather, it’s perhaps no surprise that we’ve perhaps moved on from snowdrops to narcissi and daffodils a little earlier than normal: sales are apparently up by 25% this year. The flower growers of the Scillies are blooming.

Narcissus and daffodil growers of the Scilly Isles