Daffodil breeder marks 70 years of blooms
Growing a blue-hued daffodil might sound far-fetched, but for Nelson daffodil breeder John Hunter anything is possible.
Hunter, who has grown hundreds of thousands of daffodils for the past 70 years, has bred many colours of the vibrant flower. He admitted blue would be difficult to achieve, but the experienced breeder believes it could be done with hard work and plenty of patience.
"Just give me 300 years and I could do it," he said.
Hunter has been growing daffodils since he was 13 and entered his first daffodil at a Nelson Horticultural show in 1945. Now, in 2015 he is preparing for his 70th consecutive entry at the upcoming Brightwater Horticultural Society Spring Show on September 19 and 20.
Daffodils have always been part of Hunter's life — his great-grandfather grew them in Riwaka in the 1800s. When Hunter grew his first daffodil, he never looked back.
"You've got to have a crazy obsession to do it," he said.
He has bred pink, red, white and of course bright yellow variations of the flower.
"You'll never get to the end of it though, nature is like that. There will always be something better."
His favourite to date was a test to his patience, but worth it in the end.
"It was a brute of a thing to grow, it was this red and pink one. But I remember I just kept looking at it and thought the colours were unreal," he said.
His wife Marie has also embraced Hunters passion. Despite only having one daffodil in her bridal bouquet on their wedding day 56 years ago, Hunter has made a point to pick one for her each year on their anniversary.
"I married daffodils... there's nothing he doesn't know about daffodils," said Marie.
Hunter's dedication has not gone unnoticed in his 70 years of daffodil growing. He is one of two people in the world to attain three prestigious awards for daffodil growers. He has earned a gold medal from the American Daffodil Society, the David Bell Gold Medal from the National Daffodil Society of New Zealand and the Peter Barr Memorial Cup from the Royal Horticultural Society in London.