Daffodil expert praises school's work

21:46, Sep 20 2012
GROWING LESSONS: Brightwater School children with daffodils they grew that were judged by Marie Hunter, Lorna Kerr, John Hunter, Arch Crerar and teacher Alan Dobson.

Daffodil plants grown by Brightwater School children shot up so fast this spring that most of the plants had flowered and died back before judge John Hunter could get a look at them.

Just one yellow daffodil and 22 white-petalled flowers were still in bloom when John arrived at the school last Thursday, but the internationally acclaimed daffodil authority ruled they were all healthy and grown well.

John entered his first daffodil show at 9, and has been breeding new varieties each year since 1949. He went to London earlier this year to be awarded the Peter Barr Memorial Cup by the Royal Horticultural Society, which he described as ‘‘the real pinnacle of growing daffodils’’. Brightwater Horticultural Society president Archie Crerar organised in April for John and local grower Kevin Kerr to supply the school with 50 bulbs each for 100 children to grow in pots.

John’s contribution consisted of two varieties he had bred himself, the yellow-and-white Polar Convention and peach-tinged Polar Glow. Kevin donated bulbs of yellow Taranaki-bred Egmont Gold and a British variety named Silver Convention.

John judged the remaining 23 plants by how smooth and evenly-shaped their petals and sepals were, deducting points if the blooms had noticeable ridges or imperfections.

Giving tips to the children, he said they could get better results next season if they started the plants in a pot that was buried outside in the ground because the root systems grew well at a lower temperature.


He also advised them to keep an eye out for slugs as some of the plants had been ‘‘feasted upon.’’

Eight year-old Izaak Adams won the ‘‘champion bloom’’ prize for his Polar Convention plant. He said he did not do anything special with it but gave it a lot of water, and was looking forward to giving the competition another go next year.

Teacher Alan Dobson, who was in charge of the project, said the original intention had been to get the flowers blooming in time for the children to follow in John’s footsteps as young growers and enter the Brightwater Horticultural Society’s spring show this weekend.

Unfortunately, only a few of the plants would be at their best then.

‘‘It’s just trying to create an interest for children to grow their own plants,’’ said Alan.

He said it was good for them to ‘‘achieve a little goal’’ by nurturing the plants from bulb to flower, and the project fitted in well with the awareness the school was trying to create through their school garden.

Alan was ‘‘absolutely thrilled’’ when Archie presented the school with a donation of $500 on behalf of the Brightwater Horticultural Society towards landscaping around its new water wheel, The wheel which will be officially opened on March 24 next year  for the school’s 125th jubilee.

Izaak won the competition overall, and  the category winners were: Amelia Price for Polar Glow, Aleisha Strange for Silver Convention and Calista Mead for Egmont Gold. Children who scored a first, second or third were invited to bring their certificates to the spring show and receive a cash prize of $15, $10 or $5.