Friday 24 April 2020

A Riot of Colour- Fields of Tulips, Southland

Catch-up (October 28, 2019)

From Cromwell we headed back to Southland to look after our Winton family's house and cat while they were away for a couple of weeks. I was very pleased to find out that our visit coincided with an event that has been on my bucket list for a very long time.

On just one day a year- Labour Day- Triflor NZ Ltd, an Edendale tulip bulb exporter opens up one of their large paddocks for the public to visit and view an amazing display of flowers. The flowers aren't for picking though, they will cut and mulched and the bulbs will then be harvested soon after the open day.

It's 54km from Winton to Edendale and as I wanted to be there when the gates opened at 10am, I was up and ready to go well ahead of time.  I zig-zagged my way across Southland and was delighted to find several paddocks of colourful tulips along the back roads, about 20 kilometres before Edendale. I was ahead of schedule and had time to stop and photograph them as well.

There was plenty of parking at Triflor headquarters but it was filling fast when I arrived just before 10am. The event is used a fundraiser for the Edendale Presbyterian Church, Edendale Scouts and Wyndham Lions Club; there was a small market in progress inside one of the sheds and a queue forming for the guided tours (gold coin donation). 

Several small passenger vans took visitors on a tiki-tour around the local area; along country roads and down farm tracks and past many of the tulip fields that can't be seen from the road. Dairy cows, looking a little out of place beside the mass plantings of vibrantly coloured tulips, watched curiously from the other side of fences as the procession of vehicles passed by.

Five companies lease or own 350ha in Southland, growing and exporting 175 million tulip bulbs every season. Trifor, the largest company, have 100ha and exports around 55 million bulbs each year. Several companies lease land from local dairy farmers or swap land use with them as the bulbs need to be grown on rotation every 7-8 years. 

About 80% of the bulbs are exported the United States and the rest to Holland, Norway, Finland and Russia. Southland has excellent soils, good rainfall and cool weather which are all required to grow high quality tulips bulbs. 

The bulbs are harvested during January & February and sent to the northern hemisphere where they are raised in hot houses and timed to bloom during the northern winter when flower prices are higher.

Visitors to the open day aren't allowed to pick the flowers and they also need to stay near the beginning of the rows so the bulbs aren't damaged.  When queried as to why the flowers weren't picked for sale to the flower industry in NZ or exported, the grower answered 'Who wants 170 million tulip blooms?' and "When did your partner last buy you a dozen tulips?' 

The rows of blooms are inspected for imperfections and odd colours and those bulbs removed before harvest.

Although some unusual ones may make the grade. The 'cauliflower' looking tulip in the centre of the mosaic below was one such bulb a few years ago. It's protege have been painstakingly cultivated each season and now there are several short rows of the plant. 

It wasn't a surprise to see that not many people were stopping to admire it though. The brilliant colours of all the others by far and away overshadowed the muted tones and odd shape of this quirk of nature.

It was hard to choose a favourite colour, they were all stunning but I loved the deep wine colour of these ones. I imagine that they would be a very popular colour for bridal bouquets.

How to stand out in a crowd.

And talking about crowds, dozens of people had arrived at the sheds by the time our tour van arrived back at the display paddock, the large carpark was full and many vehicles now lined the narrow country roads outside the farm. Over a 1000 people visited the farm this year, the largest crowd ever.

Inside the shed the queue for the tours snaked back and forward across the floor and a lot of visitors had opted to walk straight down to the tulip paddock. And in fact, as a photographer, I would do this next time. The tour was good but there were no photo opportunities and it was over an hour before we came back to the display. 

There was still plenty of room for me to take photos in amongst the visitors taking their ultimate selfies or photos of their children dressed in their Sunday best.

There are many migrant families working on dairy farms in Southland & Otago and I know that bright colours and beautiful flowers are a feature in their cultures. I'm sure many photos of treasured grandchildren were sent to families overseas that night.

A Riot of Colour
If you haven't already, click on a photo to enlarge it and then use your direction arrows to scroll back & forward through the photos, the colours are just spectacular (or perhaps it's just me, but I can't get enough of looking at this amazing sight).

Of course I photographed each and every row and from several different angles until I finally reached the far side of the field and when I turned to head back to the sheds, there was still a mass of people arriving.

Further to the south the weather looked to be about to take a turn for the worse and I wanted to check out a couple of the paddocks we'd seen on our tour earlier in the day. Our driver had pointed out side roads where there were tulips that could be seen from the road.

This sea of pink took my breath away, what a fabulous colour (and possibly my new favourite) and as you can see I couldn't get enough of them. Anyone want 50 photos of pink tulips?

But I lingered a little too long at the pink tulip parade and when I next looked up I could see the weather front was just about on top of me. There was one more field (actually two) that I wanted to see before I headed home, this one of white tulips when the rain started to fall...

...and one back near the main road where the heavens opened up and all hell broke loose. I managed to grab a few shots but not before getting a total drenching in the heavy downpour. 

Afterwards as I passed Triflors on my way home, dozens of people were still arriving, walking along the road in their finery and without umbrellas or wet weather gear. Others were struggling back to their cars, some parked over a kilometre away, looking like drowned rats. It was such a shame the day ended liked that but I was so pleased I arrived early.

Several days later I was back in the area and thought I'd look in on the tulip fields (as you do) that I hadn't had the time to check out when it was raining.

These reds and oranges were very vibrant, it was just a pity I could only stand at the side of the road to take photos. Given half the chance I'd have been in their amongst it again.

I also stopped at the Triflors display tulip field, this time at the other end to where we'd all been just days earlier. A dairy herd was slowly wandering back to their paddock after milking, along the track we'd been on the other day. Even though I knew what the outcome was going to be it was still quite sad to see that the de-heading machine had been through and most of rows of glorious coloured tulips had been unceremoniously chopped!

Petals & broken blooms lay in the furrows between the plants. It was such a sorry sight to see after such beauty but at least they had had their one day of glory.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for taking the time to leave a message, I love reading them! All comments are personally moderated by me and I will post and answer them as soon as possible, Shellie