Third-generation bulb grower Rob adores picking his way through tulips and hyacinths at his farm in rural Victoria. Here, he shares his love of flora in all its guises.
Tiptoe through the tulips with bulb grower Rob de Boer.
Have flowers always been part of
your life? Yes, I grew up on a large bulb farm in Holland. My father Dirk left school at 14 to join my grandfather on the farm. Dad’s specialty was growing hyacinths. My earliest memory is cleaning tulip bulbs when I was about five. Did you always want to follow in your father’s footsteps? We moved to Australia when I was eight and my father set up the flower farm here at Hoddles
Creek [Victoria] in 1981. I never considered doing anything else. It was my ambition to take over the family farm, which I did in 1999.
What do you grow? Hyacinths, daffodils and tulips.
Do you have a favourite? I love the colours of the tulips, but my favourites are hyacinths. It’s a challenge to grow them successfully. The great thing about hyacinths is they can make any room look nice and they smell great. How many plants do you harvest each year? About 3 million plants for flower production and 1 million for bulb production. Each year, we sell 500,000 bulbs and 350,000 bunches of flowers, which go to wholesalers in Melbourne and Sydney. Spring must be a crazy time… Our flower season runs for nine months of the year so it’s always busy. Flowers have to be picked each day, seven days a week. When our flower season has finished, we plant next year’s crop for flowering and harvest the bulbs we sell. Are you completely at the mercy of the weather? For bulb production, yes, but our flower production is in an automated glasshouse, so everything is under control. Do you still feel excited when you see flowers start to bloom? I’m more nervous than excited with the first flowers of the season, as the first batch will most likely determine the next nine months of production. Thankfully, it’s nearly always a good start. What is the most important tool for a bulb grower? A calendar. You need to remember to dig them out when foliage dies off, and to plant them in autumn. Always take time to smell the… Hyacinths, of course. There is no bettersmelling flower. # De Boer Flowers & Bulbs, Hoddles Creek, Victoria; (03) 5967 4389.