Edward Leeds and his daffodils
What sort of a man?
What sort of a man was Edward Leeds? Certainly a skilled gardener; undoubtedly an enthusiastic seeker after new plants. But descriptions of him are rare.
Thomas Glover described him in one letter to William Hooker as someone who 'would give you a share of anything he had whatever it had cost him' and in another he wrote 'I never met with an individual so feelingly alive to any little favour conferred, or more anxious to make a return'.
Mr. Findlay, the curator of the Manchester Botanic Gardens at the time Brockbank was researching his article, described Edward Leeds as ‘an enthusiastic botanist'. Brockbank wrote: 'Mr Findlay says that Leeds had a deep, glowing childlike enthusiasm for nature as set forth in the vegetable world. He always thought him destitute of malice or guile; firm in his attachments; in short, the "fine fat fellow that he was".'
In 1914, in Luther Burbank's His Methods and Discoveries, Their Practical Application, Vol.1, the following description is given of one of the early daffodil hybridists. Although it doesn't say that it is Edward Leeds, the description fits all that we know of him: '...[he] was a highly sensitive, nervous, shrinking man, with a great eye for detail, a true appreciation of values, a man who looked beneath the surface of things and saw beauty in hidden truths, a man who thought much and said little.'
Edward Leeds was a quiet, unassuming, self-deprecating man, with the heart of an explorer, but without the personality to match his inner ambitions. Plant-hunting was generally for the energetic and fearless; the risks were enormous and many lost their lives while seeking out new plant introductions. Edward Leeds had a different approach, less physically demanding, but requiring considerable ingenuity. Instead of going out to find the plants, he had friends and contacts who could provide him with seeds of unknown origin. He would then use all his skill to nurture those seeds to give life to what he always hoped would be a ‘new' plant. Yet, when he was successful, his modesty led him to give credit for the introduction to others.