Relocating to Vancouver Island from the Lower Mainland has allowed Franc Ruigrok to indulge in his passion for daffodils.
Ruigrok and his partner Gudrun Heckerott left big city living to purchase property on Vancouver Island and no sooner had they moved onto a couple of acres on York Road, than Ruigrok began planting daffodil bulbs that he had been collecting for years.
“So, I got my collection over the years,” Ruigrok said. “And I never had a set-up like this because we lived in a four-storey home in Steveston.”
A horticulturalist by profession and a transplant from The Netherlands, flowers are the focus of Ruigrok’s life. Raised in the flower bulb district of Holland with tulips and daffodils all around, becoming a horticulturalist was a natural progression. The daffodils he’s planted on his York Road property are not a commercial venture but they’re more than just a nice garden.
“People say, ‘Oh, you have a nice hobby,’” Ruigrok said. “I call it a passion. It’s beyond a hobby.”
Ruigrok wasted no time in getting his daffodils into the ground. You get the impression he couldn’t wait. Taking possession of the property in the fall, he had the bulbs planted by November, which is a little late. Normally, they are planted in September but it took six weeks to plan and prepare the garden beds.
Through his gardens, Ruigrok hopes to demonstrate the diversity of daffodils that can be grown in B.C. The climate on the Island is perfect for growing them, he said.
His passion for growing the different varieties is also spurred on by the need to preserve many of the different varieties at a time when breeders are getting old and there are fewer younger people stepping up to keep the varieties going. Daffodils take years to breed.
“And young people, they don’t have the patience and you see worldwide that breeders are getting old,” Ruigrok said. “There are a few youngers ones now stepping up and this is really nice but it is not enough. We need younger plus more people who will teach besides enjoying the flowers.”
It’s hard dealing with something that is so old already, he said. Ruigrok has 550 varieties. One of them is over 300 years old and about 20 per cent of his varieties are a hundred years old.
Some of the daffodils are “quite expensive” because nobody grows them anymore.
“But I don’t want the people to forget them, I want them to continue,” Ruigrok said. “You know, that’s why people have collections, whatever they collect.”
Ruigrok can be quite obsessed by this passion. He is frequently on his phone communicating with breeders and growers all over the world trying to secure bulbs and exchanging information. And that is it what sustains his interest.
“Because it is my passion, it is just being in my element and also, the communication you have with Australia, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Poland, the people who have the same interest. I get a lot of fulfilment out of it.”
Depending on the variety, the first flowers begin to bloom in February and will continue up even until June, although most of the blossoms are beginning to dwindle now.
The house Ruigrok and Heckerott purchased came complete with a pond filled with goldfish and koi. Their deck and front room overlook the pond and on a banked hill on the other side is covered with rows of daffodils with their range of colours from pink and red all the way up to white, some of them two toned, most of them either pure white or pure yellow.