After more than a decade of growing daffodils for competition, Lithgow resident Rob Slarke has won the Australian Open Daffodil Championship with twelve perfect blooms.
“No, I never expect to win but I always prepare well and do my best,” Mr Slarke said.
“I have won championships before, but in the last year or two I have been improving my daffodils a lot, this is the biggest win that I have had.”
Mr Slarke presented five varieties of daffodil at the the Horticultural Society of Canberra Spring Bulb Show. His ‘Miss Rhiannon’ bloom was also named Grand Champion Daffodil.
“All the varieties are my favourite, they are all different and I love them all,” he said.
Mr Slarke spends an hour each day tending to his daffodils in the lead up to competitions.
“I transport the stems in water in bottles packed into crates with the air conditioner in the car on. It’s a very involved process and it takes many years to learn how to grow them well and and stage them so they are looking best on the morning of the show.”
This season has been excellent for Mr Slarke’s daffodils. He won champion daffodil at Engadine, Blayney, and Orange daffodil shows in addition to the big win in Canberra.
Mr Slarke, who is the secretary of the Daffodil Association of NSW and the ACT, is better known for his champion dahlia blooms, which he began growing twenty years ago in Blackheath.
He began cultivating daffodils in the dahlia off-season so he could compete all year. Now he solely shows his daffodils.
“I grow them in pots outside. Lithgow is an excellent place to grow daffodils because they are a bulb and so they need the cold winters,” he said.
His secret to growing the perfect daffodil?
“When the plants have leaves give them plenty of water and after flowering give them fertiliser.”
Rob Slarke will have the chance to defend the Australian title in 2020 when the championship will be held again in Canberra in conjunction with the World Daffodil Convention.