Edward Leeds and his daffodils
Passionate about plants
According to William Brockbank, Edward was educated at John Hathersall's school on Ardwick Green, Manchester, and even as a schoolboy was passionate about plants, spending his pocket-money on their acquisition. He went botanising in Teesdale while on fishing trips with his friend, Thomas Glover, collecting plants for his herbarium and garden. He received plants and seeds from America, Europe and even the Crimea (via his brother-in-law). He was a correspondent of Canon Ellacombe of Bitton, and was well known to the leading horticulturists of the day. His garden was the meeting place for Lancashire florists. He was short-listed for the post of first curator of the Manchester Botanic Gardens, although this last ‘fact' has been shown to be almost certainly untrue.
Leeds' garden was at Longford Bridge in Stretford, about four miles from the centre of Manchester. The garden was about 1.25 acres in size, the perimeter planted with rhododendrons, box and laurels. Several years after his death, it still retained signs of its splendour among the general decay.
'There were huge Paeonies, many lovely varieties of Scillas nutans and S. campanulata, of every shade of blue, lilac, pink, and white, the results of Mr. Leeds' careful crossing. In the rear of the cottage were some greenhouses and brickwork pits filled with small pots of Alpines, which had overgrown the place, making mats of Sedums and Saxifrages. In the greenhouse was a large lot of seedling Amaryllis, which had been carefully crossed. The rockeries were built up of brick, tier upon tier. There were four of them, each 100 foot long, about 10 feet broad, and 4 feet high, the spaces between the bricks were filled with Alpines and hardy plants, and now covered with rank overgrowth. At one place the Veronicas had prevailed, at another the Saxifrages had gained the ascendancy. There were large clumps of the most beautiful Orobus vernus I had ever seen. Hardy Geraniums had grown into huge masses, and Fumaries formed lovely purple bosses. Of the smaller Irises, there were large clumps. Creeping plants had trailed over the walks, and in the borders were thickets of huge growers, Telekias, Asters, Campanulas, Delphiniums, Veratrums, Heracleums, and other giants, in rank profusion, the fittest only having survived. On closer inspection the rockeries were found to contain choice treasures, hidden away amongst the overgrowth, and these were carefully marked down when in bloom, and removed when the proper time came.' 1