Three years have passed since the first Country Schools Daffodil Challenge was held. The project, initiated and supported by the Northern Daffodil Club, has gone from strength to strength. Four schools are now involved and there are several others on the waiting list! While there have been some problems along the way (e.g. remarkably early flowering seasons) the enthusiasm –particularly amongst the children- remains very high. So what are the key factors that have made this project so successful?

First, setting clear goals is very important. With this in mind the following set of guidelines was prepared by the Coordinator.

Guide Notes for School Daffodil Mentors


Students in this programme should;

1. Develop an understanding of the cultivation and care of daffodils during growth. This would include digging the plot, planting the bulbs, applying appropriate fertilizer, foliage care, watering, and control of potential pests (e.g. slugs).

2. Learn to look after the flowers in growth including staking and covering blooms

3. Develop knowledge of the factors involved in selecting good show flowers – this would include pointing blooms according to the judging criteria.

4. Enhance their computer skills through use of programmes like Daffseek and the various websites.

5. Develop daffodil staging skills.

6. Depending on the nature of the programme, skills in art and craft, mathematics and writing may be enhanced. Integrating the project into the National Curriculum is very desirable.

Kayla prepares to plant her bulbs with the mentor and planting team looking on – every student gets to plant some bulbs

The second key factor is the role of the mentors – a critical component

Mentors are expected to work with the Principals and Teachers to develop the learning outcomes described above. This may require several visits to the Schools to lead teaching sessions with the students, and helping to guide the several facets of the study identified above. Appointments will need to be made and advice sought from the teachers about delivering the above outcomes.

Mentors are asked to be available to work with the students on the day of the Challenge and to discuss the results with the students. A follow-up visit to the schools may be necessary. Help with an overall evaluation of the programme is also involved.

Another critical component is the ongoing support of the Northern Daffodil Club, which provides both monetary support (Budget $600.00 p.a.) and labour for the set-up and take-down of the show. They also provide judges who often comment on the Show. This year the Club has decided to donate a Challenge Shield which will give a sense of permanence to the overall project. This will be “backdated” with the earlier winners – Matangi School (2007) and Newstead School (2008 and 2009) having their names inscribed on it.

Finally, the involvement of the School Principals, teachers and parents is absolutely necessary if the project is to succeed.


The 2010 project is underway. The ground has been prepared and the bulbs planted. It was mentioned above that it is very advantageous to integrate the programme into the curriculum. One of the teachers in the project – Sharon Quinn from Tauwhare School - took the opportunity to use the process of planting to develop the children’s skills in procedural writing which is part of the National Language Curriculum. Examples of their write-ups were received from Brianna, Mereruhia, Tayla, Tianna, Brianna, Eden, Fletcher and Jim. Two pieces exemplify the skills the young students are developing:


"How to Plant Daffodils"

By Brianna

Materials:  Spade
                 Named bulbs
                 Famous Ramsay Planting Board *
                 Name stakes.

1. Place famous Ramsay planting board on soil neatly.
2. Dig a trench straight down the edge of the board and clean all the soil out making sure it is deep enough for 2 bulbs length wise.
3. Place name stakes in the corner of the board in the soil.
4. Plant the bulbs close to the board about 10cm apart from each other with shoot upwards and sitting in the soil.
5. Slide the famous Ramsay planting board back about 30cm.
6. Dig another trench and cover bulbs just planted.
7. Repeat from method 3-6 until all bulbs are planted.



"How to plant daffodils"

By Jim


Famous Ramsay planting board
Bulbs – named
Name tags

1. Place the planting board on to the soil
2. Dig a trench along the edge of the planting board, make sure the trench is twice the length of the bulbs, clean the edge so no soil is past the edge of the planting board
3. Push the bulbs name tag into the soil
4. Put the bulbs into the soil, the shoot upwards. Put the bulbs about 10cm apart
5. Slide the planting board back, dig another trench and cover the soil from that onto the other bulbs
6. Repeat from step 2 until you’ve planted all your bulbs.


The learning demonstrated in these two extracts is clear – and remember the children are only 10 years old!

As the project develops further postings will be made.

The photos illustrate the children at work as well as staging at last year’s show. Further information on the project is available from Peter Ramsay at

Faye (left) and Bronwen discuss the correct spelling of their entry. Both are members of the Northern Daffodil Club.
The students work on their flowers at the show
Ben carefully takes a multi-header to the staging area. It won!

*The “famous” Ramsay planting board is not that famous. It was designed by Lesley Ramsay and fulfils the requirement of keeping the rows straight and equidistant. Additionally, it allows the planter to do his/her job without treading the bed down too much. It is shown in the picture below.

Tayla demonstrates how the “famous” Ramsay planting board works.
  • Photos by Sharon Quinn