Christmas Daffodils -a very early crop

UNSEASONABLY warm weather has encouraged Jersey’s outdoor daffodils to start flowering, now prompting growers to start picking the familiar trumpet-shaped flowers nearly a month earlier than expected.

And with local farmers already working to accommodate tight profit margins, the best solution would be for a spell of cold weather to stop the daffodils in their tracks.

Charles Gallichan, the Director of Woodside Farms, is used to finding ways to accommodate the vagaries of the weather but he described the recent mid to late December temperatures – which peaked at 15C – as ‘highly unusual’.

‘We grow three million indoor daffodils that we usually pick from mid-November until mid-January and we have a potential problem because the outdoor ones are already starting to flower,’ he said.

Mr Gallichan explained this year’s cold, wet summer, combined with December’s warm temperatures, had encouraged the bulbs to not only flower early but also unevenly.

‘Without a cold snap to encourage vernalisation (the cooling of seed during germination in order to accelerate flowering), the daffodils flower at slightly different times so, instead of us going into one field and picking them say six times, we might have to revisit the same field around 20 times, which is more expensive.’

Mr Gallichan added consumers tended to be less interested in buying daffodils over the festive period.

‘They tend to go into spring mode after Christmas and New Year.’

As a result, he is keeping in touch with other growers in the UK and informing his customers about the situation here in Jersey.

‘It is likely that we will be asking our major US and UK customers to start accepting large volumes of outdoor daffodils from 10 January, if not before, in comparison to last year when we only started with limited volumes around 20 January in the UK and a week later for the USA because it was so cold.’

 This year, Woodside Farm is hoping to pick 35 million stems of which about a quarter is travelling to the USA, a quarter is going to France and the remainder is going to supply the UK retail multiples and packers, who send some on to Denmark and Germany.

‘We send lorry loads over to France when it is La Fête des Grand-Mères, which falls on the first Sunday in March, and it is customary to give daffodils to grandmothers,’ said Mr Gallichan. ‘And then, of course, there is Mothering Sunday and Easter Sunday which is early this year on 27 March.’

He added Woodside Farms also exports bulbs and is experimenting with a UK supermarket to see what bulb varieties might best appeal to customers as cut flowers during the spring.

 ‘We are working quite hard to sell the so-called ‘kinky’ varieties, for example the double daffodil, which looks a bit like a rose, with lots of petals and no trumpet. We are also exploring different colour combinations, for example, pink and white, orange and white as well as multi-headed flowers.’