Meeting with Verna Baker, the first thing that strikes you is the welcoming smile and her eagerness to talk about her garden, but more about that later.
Verna runs a nursery in Basalt Road and despite the fact that it appears quite isolated, apparently there is lots of passing traffic on the weekends as Basalt Road is used as a short cut from Daylesford to Shepherds Flat.
Verna has a very local background and while some people might know her as ‘the daffodil lady’ she’s actually a Ridoni of Swiss Italian descent. She was born and raised in the area, the youngest of 5 children, inheriting the dairy farm and house from her parents. But over the years she’s turned it into a nursery and daffodil garden. As you drive up the driveway towards her house, you come around the corner to encounter a sea of daffodils – it literally takes your breath away.
Verna is obviously very passionate about her daffodils, all of which she has planted herself over the last 45 years. Each year she buys $50 worth of mixed daffodil bulbs, mostly from Tasmania (as apparently daffs hate the heat), and just keeps planting. There are approximately 44,000 bulbs in her extended garden including 450 varieties of daffodils! Who knew there were that many varieties? They start blooming around July and finish in late November or early December. So she has daffodils in bloom for about six months which was another surprise, as we really only seem to see daffodils in large numbers around August and September.
To stand and look at the row upon row of the many varieties of daffodils creates such a wave of happiness that it’s almost indescribable! The feeling that spring has arrived as the daffodils turn their faces to the sun and nod in the slight breeze, along with the jonquils and snowdrops, just creates an amazing feelgood factor that can’t be bottled.
Verna sells bulbs at her nursery and flowers at various markets – Daylesford Sunday Market, the Wesley Hill Market and at the Guildford Store – and 10% of all sales go to the Children’s Cancer Ward at the Royal Children’s Hospital where many years ago her young son was treated. This seems most appropriate as the daffodil is the symbol for cancer.
She also opens her garden to the community every year for locals and friends who are also keen gardeners. Usually held on the 3rd week of September when the daffs are at their best, this year it’s being held on the Sunday 17th September.
Some fun facts about Verna’s daffodils:
- 26,000 cultivated varieties exist and Verna grows 450 of them
- They come in many shapes, colours and sizes and range from miniature versions to larger varieties
- The Nectar daffodil is Verna’s rarest one (pictured in the gallery of photos)
- Snails and slugs are controlled by her chooks and geese weaving in and out of the lines of daffs, no nasty pesticides used here
- There’s no need to dig up the bulbs, Verna just mows over them at the end of the season.
When Verna is not gardening in her own garden, she is helping the elderly with their gardens in town on a regular basis. As she said ‘the housework is done by 8:30 and then I am out in the garden until dark’. Whether it’s her own garden or someone else’s doesn’t seem to matter, she’s just happy to be creating happiness with beautiful gardens.
Visit Verna’s garden for her Friendship Garden Day on Sunday week. Tea and coffee will be provided. A small plate of food to share would be appreciated. If rain is predicted, the day may be cancelled.
Date: Sunday, September 17
Time: 1:00 pm to 4:30 PM
Venue: 695 Basalt Road, Basalt
Entry: By donation. All proceeds to the Royal Children’s Hospital Cancer Ward
More information: 0411 159 506