Our world champion daffodil
By Grant Johnston
It felt as good as winning a gold medal for Frontier Road daffodil growers Graeme and Faith Miller when one of their blooms took out the grand champion title at the World Daffodil Convention Show in Melbourne recently.
Growing and breeding daffodils has been an enjoyable hobby and a break away from their teaching careers for about 20 years.
Mr Miller is principal at Kihikihi Primary School and Mrs Miller works with children with special needs at Otorohanga South School.
Mr Miller first became interested in daffodils when his father gave him some bulbs to plant when he was 13.
Seeing his name on a prize certificate gave him a real buzz. But there was a much bigger buzz waiting in Melbourne at the Daffodils Down Under Show.
Ironically, the couple did not rate the champion flower as highly as some of their other entries. When Mr Miller was helping to judge another section of the show and when he saw that their most favoured entry, a ‘Lady Diana’ bloom had not succeeded in another class he went back to the hotel where they were staying slightly disappointed.
At breakfast the next day another competitor informed them their entry in the ‘small orange or red cup, yellow petals’ class had won best seedling.
The American judge, who along with a British judge selected the champion bloom, was sitting at a nearby table and when he said that flower had been chosen as grand champion the Millers were speechless.
They had to see for themselves and after waiting nervously for an hour for the show to open raced back to the show, saw their hopes confirmed.
The flower had also picked up the ribbon as open section champion on its way to top honours.
While they thought the flower may not have been large enough, the judges discounted this because of its near perfect formation.
The success will give G and F Miller Daffodils of Frontier Road exposure on the international daffodil stage. They export some bulbs already but expect more orders to start coming in. The Millers grow 12,000 bulbs annually and sell named varieties for prices ranging from $145 to $1.50 per bulb.
This year’s success was not their first at the World Daffodil Convention - having taken out champion seedling at the last show in New Zealand in 1996.
They are attending six shows this spring, typically picking 400 flowers to choose the best 150. When the work is at its peak their four children help out and the family garage is turned into a production room, complete with chillers for top flowers.
One show at which locals will see the world class daffodils will be at Hamilton Gardens on October 2.
The couple have lived at Frontier Road for three years and say they could not have wished to find a better place to grow daffodils with fertile soil and good rainfall. And sometimes despite the best care possible for the prime daffodils grown under netting in their garden, the discards alongside the roadside fence can throw up a champion - exactly what happened two years ago at the National Show, despite the same variety being grown in the garden.