Love of bulbs spans the world

00:53, Sep 22 2009
GLOBAL FLOWERS: Marie and John Hunter, back, are hosting visiting bulb grower Jan Pennings from the Netherlands.
GLOBAL FLOWERS: Marie and John Hunter, back, are hosting visiting bulb grower Jan Pennings from the Netherlands.

Growing a blue daffodil is the Holy Grail for Nelson daffodil breeders John and Marie Hunter, and if they ever manage to create one, visiting Dutch daffodil expert Jan Pennings will be the first in line to buy it.

Mr Pennings is in Nelson to inspect the Hunters' bulbs at their Hope property.

He travels the world in search of new daffodils, and plants about 100 promising new varieties on his 48-hectare farm in Breezand, the Netherlands, each year.

He has had a long association with the Hunters and said he was impressed by the quality, colours and form of their daffodils, and hoped to use some of their varieties commercially.

Daffodils are a family affair for Mr Pennings. His grandfather started the business 100 years ago and today the Pennings family cultivate more than 263ha of flower bulbs, Mr Pennings himself growing between 15 and 17 million flower bulbs a year.

Although he has spent his lifetime working hard in the gardens, he has the smile of the perennially content and said that because he does something he loves, he could never call it working.

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"I am rich and happy. I have an interesting job. I love my workplace. I love travelling. If you do something you love, you will work as hard as necessary."

His tour of New Zealand gardens and breeders has included Auckland, Gisborne, Wellington and Tauranga.

Mr Pennings' next stop is Christchurch, where he will give a talk about his other passion, the famous Dutch garden Keukenhof. He is on the board of Keukenhof, which opens only two months of the year and is a mecca for garden lovers around the world. "We have more than 800,000 visitors a year, and everyone when they get there says, `This is paradise'."

A blue daffodil would fit right in, he said, but Mrs Hunter said her husband had not got time to grow one.

"He'll have to live another 100 years to do that."

The Nelson Mail