Have you ever wondered how those beautiful flowers that you buy (or receive) are grown?
Australia as a whole has the perfect climate for growing flowers, from tropical conditions in Queensland right down to colder climates in Tasmania.
Some of Australia’s most popular flowers are chrysanthemum, roses, gerbera, freesia, peonies and liliums. Favourite colours are white, red and yellow and pink.
Although a very small niche in the horticulture industry, we all love flowers – the smell, the look and the sentiment behind the giving and receiving.
The flower industry in Australia is generally hidden from the public so here is a sneak peek into how those flowers are brought to life and made available to florists and supermarkets.
Cut flowers are produced predominantly in the southern states of Australia. Major production regions include the Wimmera and Yarra Valley areas in Victoria, the Perth region, the central coast and Northern Rivers regions of NSW, South east Qld and northern Tasmania.
Flower production is very labour intensive, from storing corms, cormlets, bulbs, seedlings and tubers at the correct temperature, to soil preparation, through to growth, harvesting and sales – care and attention is paramount.
Some growers will re-use the bulbs and so the importance of looking after them is vital. Storage temperatures vary across varieties, colours and planting times. Throughout the dormancy when the bulbs are stored the temperature will be cold (perhaps down to 2-4 degrees), then as the planting time draws close the bulbs are introduced to warmer temperatures to “wake them up”.
From the tender care given through the storage phase, some varieties may receive a hormone treatment prior to planting to assist with growth.
Different varieties of flowers have different planting methods. To maximise the growth rate it is important for some (eg Dutch Iris) to be planted by hand in order for the flower to grow “straight”. This particular variety is harvested by hand, therefore a straight stem is perfect, and this also helps with cutting the stems to the desired lengths.
Other varieties such as Freesia can be machine planted. These little beauties can turn themselves toward the sun. Freesia are harvested by hand with a cutting method using a very sharp knife. The flower industry is a year round labour of love. From crop planning, soil preparation, climate control (for hothouses), irrigation, crop maintenance, harvest, storage and sales – the fun never ends.
Following harvest, it’s time to get them to market or retail outlets. Growers barter with vendors to sell their wares. Markets around Australia have aisles and aisles of flowers from growers nationwide that are sold predominantly to florists.
Around 9 or 10 years ago there was an increase in imported flowers into Australia. This had both a negative and positive impact on growers and the flower industry in Australia. The negatives were the diminished supply demanded from Australian growers, along with impacts to the price of locally grown flowers. Some of the benefits saw a rise in supply and demand from the growers when the imports were harder to access and (imported) supply fell away. This created an avenue for growers to increase their supply of heavily sought after varieties and colours that were not obtainable from imported stock.
COVID border closures have resulted in a further reduction in imports – this in turn has had a positive impact on growers.
Unfortunately though, for our national growers the domestic market fell away too. The demand for flowers in the first 4 weeks of the lock down was non-existent. This was particularly concerning as Mother’s Day (one of the biggest sales points in the industry, along with Valentines Day) was fast approaching and growers around the nation had already forecast their supply, their flowers were already planted, and in production prior to COVID.
Did you know there are quarantine regulations for flowers entering into WA and Tasmania? Flowers are required to have a quarantine declaration in order to be accepted into Western Australia and are checked by the Tasmanian Border Control/Quarantine Officers before entry.