Annette Taylor talks with local daffodil grower Ian Riddell.
IT WAS an early start for Ian Riddell when I turn up at his Gordonton home. He’d been up at 3am taking a load of daffodil flowers to market.
After 24 years he still loves the yellow flowers.
“I do. And it’s not just the daffodils, I like the growing and production – getting them off the paddock, into the barn, taking them to market and seeing them there.”
It has not been a great season, he says. “The frosts are slowing things down this year, throwing a curve ball in. It’s a huge challenge to get enough daffodils for Daffodil Day when the weather is so changeable, our target is 15,000 bunches for the week.”
Ian and business partner Graham Phillips have more than 1000 daffodil varieties, of which they might pick from 160 on their 21 acres.
They supply the Auckland markets, the Hamilton market and supermarkets. Recently their flowers have been on sale at Gordonton’s The Farm Shop, which Ian says is a fantastic outlet, nice and local.
Local is important. Graham lives just up the road at Clandon, and Ian’s family have been in Gordonton many generations.
Ian’s father Lex (who passed away recently at age 90) was a dairy farmer but he says he never took to it – “I went into horticulture as soon as I left school.”
After a few years’ growing, Graham suggested they go into partnership in 1996 – and the rest is history.
Now Clandon Daffodils is one of the larger suppliers of daffodils in New Zealand and it keeps them fairly busy during the season, which is from the last week in June to the first week in October.
“We pick every day, pretty much,” he says. “We get the bulk of our flower income from three to four weeks of the year, so it’s crucial we have good teams on hand, able to pick when we need it.”
They produce more than a million bulbs on the farm, and these can be ordered any time from the website and are delivered in March.
And yes, he does have picked daffodils inside the house. One of his all-time favourites is Kiwi Sunset, a double variety that ticks all the boxes. It was bred by Max Hamilton, who died a number of years ago.
“We were given two bags of 500 bulbs from him, he used to live just down the road. We’ve turned that into 100,000 bulbs, and might have the world’s biggest stock. It’s a beautiful flower and it gets good money at the market – I love it.”
Ian’s tips for daffodil care:
- Fertilise in the autumn and carry out slug control.
- Once the flowers have finished, don’t cut the leaves back.
- If you have daffodil flowers in a vase, they will keep better if the house is not over warm. Consider popping the vase outside overnight.
“They don’t like heat. I like stoking my fire up at home, they hate that. That’s why they come out in mid-winter really, to tell you spring is on its way.”
- Daffodil Day is on Friday 28 August.