Green Thumb

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.

Australian House & Garden - - News -

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.

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