Springtime fun: Taniwha Daffodils

When spring arrives and we say goodbye to cranky winter as it goes on its curmudgeonly way, Taniwha Daffodils open its gates to the public for a whole month.

The sea of yellow that erupts beneath the trees at the Mabin’s farm, Taniwha, is a glorious sight. Located on the Takapau Plains, 40 minutes south of Hastings, the snow-capped Ruahine Ranges provide a postcard perfect backdrop for this golden scene.

There’s 25 acres of park-like grounds and over 1000 daffodil varieties. Here you can wander, and as you go, pick a bunch of 30 daffodils for $5. The really wonderful thing about this is that the money raised by the charitable trust is donated to Plunket and in turn, this helps the work they do with young families.

It all began around 40 years ago. Railene Mabin balked at the idea of baking a cake (not her thing) as a fundraising exercise for her local Plunket group. Instead, she came up with another idea. She could sell some of the daffodils that grew madly around the home paddock.

The children, Angus (aged 10) and Heather (nine) were dispatched to the roadside with bucketloads of the pretty blooms. People stopped. The daffodils sold well, and so on it went. Since then, selling daffodils as a charitable fundraiser has evolved: more bulbs are planted each year, grounds landscaped, different events are held, and to make things easier for visitors and the volunteers that help bundle up bunches of daffodils, the Mabins have now converted their old deer shed into Daffodil HQ.

As well, there is a coffee kiosk, some very stylish conveniences and seating dotted around the property for those who just want to sit and admire the view.

Taniwha _daffodils3

The Taniwha Daffodils is very much an extended family effort with Barrie and Railene`s children Angus, Heather and Dougald plus their respective daughter-in-laws and grandchildren all helping out when they can.

Angus – the former child daffodil seller – and his wife Esther, farm the surrounding land as a beef block. They’ve had their own children, who have since grown up and left home.

Esther is Railene’s right-hand gal and has taken over a lot of the organising involved both in the month of September and throughout the year.

Did she realise when she met Angus that he came attached with a life that revolved around daffodils?

“Not exactly,” she smiles. “But when he proposed to me, he did it with a bunch of daffodils!”

Esther says it was heartwarming to visit the new Plunket facility that opened in Napier in August 2012 and know that Taniwha Daffodils was part of it.

Each year, Railene sets to work to plant more. One year she planted 17,000 daffodil bulbs.

How does this energetic great-grandmother do it? Granddaughter Kate, who has pitched into help ever since she was a schoolgirl, sheds some light on it. “Whatever Grandma does, she does with a passion. The effort that she and Granddad put in is phenomenal. Every September, she is up early in the morning setting up and she’s often the last one to leave each day.”

When Railene first came to live at Taniwha as a young woman, she was keen to establish a garden and wondered what grew best out on the Takapau Plains. It can be a very bitter place in winter and frosts and winds test some of the hardiest plants. She looked out the window one early spring and noticed the brightly flowering daffodils, which had been planted years previously by former generations, were still going strong. So she thought: ‘That’s what I’ll plant more of’.

Taniwha _daffodils2

Esther says, “Railene is very proud of the fact that she’s planted 90 percent of the daffodils herself. She has a special technique using a heavy spade and she knows just the right way to throw it. Barrie mows the paddock meticulously with the ride-on mower around the paths and car park – rain, hail or shine. It’s a huge job but he enjoys feeling part of it too.”

Railene’s favourite daffodil supplier is Pleasant Valley Daffodils in South Canterbury and when asked if she has a standout tip for caring for her plants she says, “Daffodils thrive where they get a summer bake out and a winter chill, but they don’t like wet feet! To prolong the life of cut daffodils – change the water every day.”

Another important part of Taniwha daffodils is the number of volunteers who come out to wrap and sell daffodils. It’s a community effort and all hands to the pump when things get busy. A variety of visitors – busloads of rest home residents, the disabled, schools, families and garden enthusiasts – come to Taniwha. One weekend last year the Mabins counted 200 cars in the car park. Many people bring a picnic and make a whole afternoon of it.

Local knowledge

At Taniwha Daffodils this year, two events are planned:

Daffodils at Dawn: 2 September, $12 a ticket, 5.30am-9am, barista coffee/chocolate, a bunch of PYO daffodils, a steaming bowl of “Polly`s Porridge” and entry into the Dawn Photo competition.

Daffodils at Dusk: 16 September, $15 a ticket, 5.30pm-9pm, live music, light installation, mulled wine, food stalls and wine from award-winning local vineyard, (owned by former All Black John Ashworth), Junction Wines.

Taniwha Daffodils, 3440 State Highway 2, is open every day for the month of September, 8am-5pm. The coffee kioskis open weather permitting 9.30am-12pm weekdays and 9.30am-3.30pm weekends.

Entry is free but please bring sensible shoes and a raincoat.

For group bookings, contact Esther on 027 227 7230.

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