The daffy ambition of turning gold to blue

(as dictated to Mrs Grumble)

Tinkering with the colour of flowers is high on Alf’s list of useless activities.

He therefore groaned at the news that –

Growing a blue daffodil is the Holy Grail for Nelson daffodil breeders John and Marie Hunter, and if they ever manage to create one, visiting Dutch daffodil expert Jan Pennings will be the first in line to buy it.

If these people like blue flowers, why don’t they grow bloody bluebells.

This Pennings bloke, for what it’s worth, is in Nelson to inspect the Hunters’ bulbs at their Hope property.

He travels the world in search of new daffodils, and plants about 100 promising new varieties on his 48-hectare farm in Breezand, the Netherlands, each year.

He has had a long association with the Hunters and said he was impressed by the quality, colours and form of their daffodils, and hoped to use some of their varieties commercially.

He is on the board of the famous Dutch garden Keukenhof, which attracts more than 800,000 visitors a year, and says a blue daffodil would fit right in, but Mrs Hunter said her husband had not got time to grow one.

“He’ll have to live another 100 years to do that.”

So it’s just a silly pipedream, in the same league of useless activities and tilting at windmills as trying to breed a black tulip.

Part of what fuels popular interest in the black tulip saga is the fact that no truly black tulip actually exists to this day – nor is one ever likely to!

There’s a simple reason for that: it’s impossible.

Frans Roozen, technical director of the International Flower Bulb Center in Hillegom, the Netherlands, explains, “To be truly black, the color would have to be absolutely devoid of any hues or overtones of other colors. In nature, this only happens with death. No living leaf or flower is truly black.”

Though Roozen admits that very serious efforts to hybridize a black tulip have been made over the years and that some stunning results have been achieved, actual black remains impossible to achieve.

“What is possible,” he says, “and what has already been done well, is to create tulips that are a deep, dark purple. Close to black, very, very close, but not really black…”

As an afterthought, Alf agrees that hosts of blue daffodils would look rather splendid at a National Party annual conference.

But imagine what Wordsworth would have made of it, had he come across a field of blue daffodils rather than yellow ones.

A host of blue daffodils doesn’t have the same magic as a host of golden buggers.

One Response to The daffy ambition of turning gold to blue

  1. […] The daffy ambition of turning gold to blue – Alf Grumble digs up some facts on bulb breeding. […]

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