I’d been to the Edendale Crank Up before – two years ago when I was invited as a passenger on the Ferrari Owner’s Club annual run when the Italian marque was the ‘featured car’. Ferrari, a glittering (slightly misplaced?) jewel in an ocean of beloved old tractors, stationary engines, sheep shearing displays and other old farm machinery.

I went back again in late January, but this time as ‘the special guest’ – a fraud among a line of illustrious others that included Colin Meads and old ‘Ed’ himself, he who had famously “knocked the bastard off”. Being ‘the special guest’ included having your name on the advertising and arriving each of the two mornings by helicopter … I was hopelessly out of place.

But, before I get down to the nuts and bolts of this yarn there is something I am simply bursting to tell you because it came as a total surprise to me.

Eric the ‘Bulb Man’ at the Triflora plant with a couple of handfuls of tulip bulbs bound for export

You may have heard of ‘the Edendale Tulips’. Dutch company Triflor has established a tulip growing operation in the north-eastern corner of Southland where Edendale is situated. Each year, the paddocks where Triflor has planted the tulip bulbs become – cliché alert – a riot of colour as the distinctive flowers bloom into an ocean of flowers. It’s a spectacular picture – a paddock of red, a paddock of yellow, a paddock of white, a paddock of purple.

It is breathtaking. I had missed the flowers on this trip, but over the two days I heard plenty of comment about “the tulips being lifted” and had no idea what they were talking about.

On the Monday after the Crank Up I was taken to Triflor (which employs about 70 local people, so it’s no small contributor to the local economy) for a look. I met Eric, a Dutchman about as tall as a skyscraper, out from Holland for a week or two to oversee the “lifting of the tulips” and in the course of our introductions I asked the questions I was sure most people would want to ask, “Which is your biggest market for the flowers: is it Holland? And do you chill them to keep tulips on the market for 12 months?”

The tulip bulb plant near Edendale employs up to 60 locals. A team of young women ‘sorters’

“No,” replied Eric. “We cut ’em off and mulch them, they become fertiliser. We’re after the bulbs, which we export, mainly to the United States …” I learnt that one tulip bulb planted this year can become five or six bulbs after flowering!

But not all of Edendale’s glorious, iconic-shaped tulip flowers are entirely wasted. Each year the company has an open day, run as a fund-raiser for the Edendale Presbyterian church, where people can buy flowers. This all came as such a shock to me, I had to share it.

Now, back to the main feature.

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