Bernie Delaney is proud of his blooming hippeastrums, which are attracting a lot of attention. (ABC North Coast: Donna Harper)
Bernie Delaney has a passion for hippies … in fact he loves nearly a million of them. The 88-year-old pensioner gardener has been growing hippeastrums or ‘hippies’ on his property at Wardell, in northern New South Wales, for the past 30 years.
The ornamental plants are now in full bloom and attracting tourists from as far away as Holland, Canada and the US, as well as the locals.
He said his hippies had become “an accidental tourist attraction”.
Mr Delaney knew he had a green thumb as a young boy when he would help his mum grow tomatoes in Queensland.
“I’ve loved gardening. Always have,” Mr Delaney said.
Mr Delaney takes a break after tending to his large number of ‘hippies’. (ABC North Coast: Donna Harper)
The passion continued throughout his navy career too.
“When I was in the navy in the 1950s in Nowra, I would grow ornamental flowers near where we would have the parades,” he said.
“Everyone on the base loved them and I would win the gardening prize, every time.”
He came to the Northern Rivers to help his son grow mushrooms on the Wardell farm. But Mr Delaney got bored with the mushrooms and began to grow a number of different flowers.
But, he found the ones that survived the best were the hippeastrums because the wallabies didn’t like the taste of them.
“The wallabies loved the gerberas but they hated the hippies. So I grew more hippies,” Mr Delaney said.
He said a minibus brought regular visitors from one of the local nursing homes to his property to look at the beautiful flowers in all their glory.
Mr Delaney said it gave pensioners a lot of joy to see the different colours in his garden.
“They get out of the bus and just walk or sit in between the flowers. I think it gives them some sort of peace of mind,” he said.
“I give them flowers to take back to the nursing home so they can put them in their room, to cheer them up.”
Mr Delaney, who turns 89 in June next year, said he hoped to be around to see the next bloom in spring.
“I’m still buying seeds so I want to be around to see them flower next season,” he said.
He said growing hippies was good for his soul.
“It keeps me out of the pub and out of trouble. So that’s a good thing, isn’t it ?”