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Greenbank Garden, a serene oasis nestled less than a mile from the vibrant Southside suburbs of Glasgow, is a testament to the beauty of West Coast gardening. It boasts an impressive array of over 3,600 named species and varieties of plants.

Greenbank House was erected in the 1760s for Robert Allason. A tobacco merchant and slave trader during Glasgow's heyday as the second city of the British Empire, Allason's fortunes took a turn after the American Wars of Independence, leading to the loss of the house and estate, which returned to the Hamilton family.

Today, the expansive garden serves as a beacon of inspiration, encouraging visitors to cultivate a diverse array of plants in their own gardens. The springtime at Greenbank is adorned with the vibrant hues of daffodils, a testament to our collection of 545 cultivars, grown in the old walled garden and surrounding woodland. Originally, this garden supplied the mansion house with fruit and vegetables. The house and walled garden are cocooned by tall beech trees and Scots pines, a shelter belt planted during the garden's creation.

A view of the symmetrical Georgian Greenbank House with a vast lawn spreading in front of it. Shaped yew trees and hedges form an avenue leading towards the house.

Major Hamilton

The daffodil collection is believed to have started with Major Hamilton in the late 19th to the early 20th century.

Jim May, the first Head Gardener and Property Manager of Greenbank Garden, once recalled a conversation with William Blyth, the owner of Greenbank, who donated it to the Trust in 1976: ’I understood from Mr. Blyth that the daffodils were planted in the 1920-30s by Major Hamilton, the brother of the owner of the time. He had been injured in his legs in the First World War, leaving him disabled. I understand he had dealings with other narcissarians, some of whom bred Narcissus, and may have also done some breeding himself. Mr. Blyth was told locals were shocked by his enthusiasm for new Narcissus forms, he was told the Major could spend £10 on one bulb. That was a tremendous amount in the 1920s!’

Major Hamilton’s fascination with narcissus (daffodils) became the cornerstone of the Greenbank collection. However, determining the exact number of varieties he gathered for the garden is a challenge, as the previous Hamilton residents intentionally destroyed most of the historical records. This has left us with limited and uncertain information about the collection’s origins before William Blyth acquired the property, adding an intriguing layer of mystery to its history.

Daffodils line a path in Greenbank Garden in the springtime

Daffodil collection through the years

Throughout the years, Greenbank’s collection has showcased a wide range of narcissus varieties, including the 13 divisions and their numerous cultivars. Among the old varieties are N.’Spaniards Inn’, N.’Dunkeld’ (a Brodie daffodil), and N. ‘Irene Copeland’. These beautiful daffodils were most likely collected by Major Hamilton himself in the early 20th century. As time went on, the collection grew and now consists of approximately 545 varieties. However, we are currently reviewing this number and plan to conduct a full-scale identification of our daffodils in the coming years.

Daffodils and the Trust

Several of the Trust’s gardens, such as Greenbank, Threave, Brodie Castle, and House of the Binns, house various daffodil collections. It's interesting to note that Major Hamilton, Major Brodie (Brodie Castle), and Major Gordon (House of the Binns) were all military majors who collected and grew daffodils in the early 20th century. Despite no formal connection between them, one can't help but wonder if they interacted, traded, or purchased daffodils from each other. At Greenbank, we proudly display 13 different varieties of Brodie daffodils in our collection.