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Home Blog {Farmer} and the Florist Interview: Field of Roses + The Seasonal Flower Movement in New Zealand
February 19th 2016

{Farmer} and the Florist Interview: Field of Roses + The Seasonal Flower Movement in New Zealand

Written by
Floret

One of the many things I absolutely love about the seasonal flower movement is the global network of fellow farmer florists who have connected via social media. I find it fascinating to observe the many parallels between the increasing popularity of local, seasonal flowers here in the good ole’ U.S. of A. and what is happening in the U.K., Canada, Russia, New Zealand and other far flung corners of the world.

I’ve had so much fun checking out what is bloom around the world through Instagram photos and posts tagged #SeasonalFlowerAlliance, especially this time of year.  When our fields are barren and more than half of the U.S. is white with snow, it is high season for our friends in the southern hemisphere and they’re flooding my feed with their beautiful seasonal summer blooms.  One of those Instagrammers I follow and adore is Field of Roses @field0froses, a flower farm in New Zealand’s beautiful Waingake Valley.  Zoe Field agreed to take a brief break from harvesting to sit down and tell me more about her flowers, farm and the seasonal flower movement in her area.

Erin:  Thanks for taking time to chat with me today, Zoe. First, can you share a little bit more about your farm and your business?

Zoe: We run a small operation from our family farm. Just mum and I, working in the field day and night, literally! Dad is also a huge part of the farm although he stays away from the flower side of things, he is our main man when it comes to the bigger jobs; he is the jack of all trades, the plumber, builder, mechanic and occasional electrician. We’d be lost with out him. It’s a real family run business, with all hands on deck.

We have a field of about 1000 roses with over 50 different varieties, mainly because narrowing it down to just a few was impossible, I’ll find any excuses to try a new variety. On top of that we have a small cutting field. Which was never really planned but quickly grew out of a need from our florists. It started life as a vegetable garden, soon the veggies were replaced by flowers, an extension was added and then another, and now we’ve moved down the road into a new patch of dirt which we are trialling this season.

The flower field is pretty much jam packed with anything that takes our fancy, no real logic, a jumble of flowers that I can’t seem to live without. Growing bulk is something we aren’t very good at, we are very easily distracted and quickly lose focus if we have to stand picking in the same place for too long. So we go for variety over quantity. Probably also why we have so many different roses. Our rose bunches are rarely ever made up of the same variety of rose. If you buy a bunch of apricot roses from us, you usually end up with at least four different varieties all in varying shades and forms, which I think lends itself perfectly to that loose garden look.

Erin:  I’m really interested in learning what the seasonal flower movement is like in other countries.  It seems to be really picking up steam here in the U.S.  In just the last two or three years, there has been an explosion of new small flower farms plus more and more designers are seeking out seasonal floral material.  Is there strong support for local flowers in New Zealand?  What trends are you seeing?  Can you describe ‘the scene’ there?

Zoe: New Zealand is very unique in the fact that our flower market is dominated by NZ grown flowers, in fact more than 90% of the market is NZ grown. The majority of the flower growers here are more specialised, focusing on a few varieties and growing them on mass. It seems to be only very recently that more farms like yourself are starting to pop up. I’ve definitely noticed more and more growers appearing on Instagram, some already quite established but just hidden away in their little rural corner of the world with a real seasonal drive.

Designers are also seeking out more seasonal flowers and are eager to build up relationships with their growers. It seems to be becoming an important core value to their business.

I think Instagram has played a major role in this new era of flower farming and design. A dynamic flower driven community is taking shape, and the gap between designers and growers all over the world is quickly closing. This is so exciting for a small remote flower farms in NZ, as it means no longer being limited by isolation.

Erin:  You recently hosted a workshop in collaboration with the talented team at Soil & Stem, isn’t that right? The photos I saw were absolutely dreamy–tell me more about the experience!

Zoe: The Soil and Stem workshop was such an amazing experience. It was funny because during the winter I managed to somehow talk dad into building us a big shed at the top of the rose field, overlooking the roses and surrounding hills. I had this vision of maybe one day hosting workshops or evenings in the field with family and friends. As we were putting the finishing touches on the shed Dad reluctantly asked me, “now why am I building this shed again?” “Trust me dad we’ll use it,” I hesitantly replied! That very week I got an email from Nicole and we were all go. It was meant to be.

soil-and-stem-workshop-Celine-Chhuon-Photography374

soil-and-stem-workshop-Celine-Chhuon-Photography371We timed the workshop for the summer flush. It was a little bit touch and go as we’d had a very unseasonably cold spring, so I was worried we’d be behind. But like clockwork the roses flowered, and the cutting garden filled with colour.

Nicole is an amazing teacher and her style fit our farm perfectly. The attendees were let loose in our fields and nothing was off-limits. I loved watching everyone move through the field, their buckets and arms quickly overflowing with flowers. For a grower I don’t think there is a more rewarding experience than to see people create and be inspired by your flowers. I think for me, though, the best part was all the new friendships that were formed–friendships that will last beyond those two days.

Field_of_roses_workshopsoil-and-stem-workshop-Celine-Chhuon-Photography793photos courtesy of Celine Chhuon Photography

Erin:  In this line of work, I’ve found that you can learn about as much from your own failures growing something as you would studying someone else’s success.  You have written a little bit about that and I’m curious to know what you consider to be the biggest lessons learned from your first few seasons as a flower farmer?

Zoe: What we’ve learnt in our first few season of flower growing is that:  (A) We have the windiest site for growing roses and clematis. (B) Our soil is not free draining, even though every plant seems to specify this as a growing requirement. (C) We are not good at staking or succession planting or any of the other basic techniques needed to grow flowers successfully. I could continue all the way to Z.

Yet despite all of the above we still somehow manage to grow beautiful flowers. I’ve learned that there is no real right or wrong way of growing its just experimenting and finding out what works best for you and your land. If you love flowers, if you love growing and long days in the field, despite all odds stacked against you, you will still grow beautiful flowers.

Erin:  Your website indicates your flowers are available at both the Floramax and UFG auctions in Auckland. What are the flower auctions like there and how does that process work for farmers like you?

Zoe: Because we live in such a rural part of New Zealand, the flower auctions have been a crucial part in getting our product out to the masses in the most simplest and efficient way possible. All our product is picked fresh, chilled and then packed into cardboard flower boxes, which are then shipped overnight in refrigerated trucks to the market floor in Auckland.

The flower auctions in NZ are all run using the Dutch auction system, where the bidding starts with a high asking price then moves lower until sold. Buyers place bids at whatever price they are willing to pay, first person to place a bid gets the product.The system is fast and efficiently deals with large volumes of product. It also reflects very quickly what is in demand and what is not!

It can be very nerve-racking at times, it’s always a bit of a gamble on our part. During the spring flush, it can be quite discouraging to say the least. Even our little flower farm can so easily flood the market, with our prices taking a huge knock. We are trying to think of ways to avoid this, looking into selling more direct over those high volume periods. Selling direct to our designers is a real passion of mine, I love the friendships we have formed and the trust that we have built up over the years. However picking to order is far more time consuming. So it’s about finding that balance between direct and market.
All in all though, mum and I still really like selling through the auction. Floramax has been incredibly supportive of our little farm, taking the time each year to visit us, offering lots of encouragement and answering any questions or concerns we may have. It’s that personal touch that we value from them the most.

Erin:  What flowers are you most excited about growing this season?  Any new varieties you’ve added to the mix that show promise?

There are a few new additions that I’m really excited about this season. In the rose field a single petalled beauty called Sparrieshoop is fast becoming a favourite. I love the simplicity of her blooms, delicate white ruffled petals surround the sweetest yellow stamen. She grows on tall stems, and each stem is laden with blooms, I can’t recommend her enough.

In the clematis patch we’ve had a couple of stand outs, but nothing compares to Violet Elizabeth, big double lilac blooms that always stop me in my tracks.

Last but not least Campanula punctata ‘Pink Chimes’ is a real beauty. I spotted her flowering in my grans garden last year and dug out a few runners to trial. It’s doing amazingly, in fact it’s quickly spreading through our garden beds. To me that’s the definition of a good plant, easy care and invasive, pretty much a weed. It’s dainty little bell like flowers and maroon spotted throat look incredible floating in bouquets or out the side of arrangements.

Erin:  Zoe, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me –especially during this busy time of year for you.  I’ve so enjoyed learning more about your operation and seeing so many of your dreamy photos.  I would absolutely love to visit you  in person some day!   

Connect with Field of Roses:
website
Instagram

28 Comments

  1. Simran Ahuja on

    wow.. great interview. Got some really new things to know.

    Reply
  2. Senthil Bharathi on

    Hi I am senthil. I hav 7 yr Experience in Rose Growing undre Green House in kenya and Ethiopia. 2500 MSL. I am looking job in New Zealand. My contact.
    [email protected]

    Reply
  3. Tanisha Shukla on

    Wow, your field is amazing! I have always loved roses and the fact that you grow roses of different varieties in your field is what catches my mind. I would love to see your field once.

    Reply
  4. Ruth on

    I love how this post captures the essence of a New Zealand summer!
    I am one of many people to pass through the fields of Aromaunga (Baxters) flowers in Christchurch NZ, some of the original field to vase producers in the South Island. It was such a pleasure to be able to point out the window and show a customer where their flowers were grown. Although as she is now well into her 90’s Mrs B may not be up on the world of Instagram.

    A great interview that really gives an insight to the flower fields in NZ.

    Reply
  5. ruth on

    how interesting was that! totally enjoyed reading this post-would love to know the garden roses they grow!

    Reply
  6. Debbie Majurey on

    Loved this interview, hearing the realities of flower farming and of course the sheer pleasure of growing and sharing beautiful flowers. I am a flower farmer newbie on the Kaipara, Auckland NZ. Interviews like these do help me feel connected both to other flower farmers in NZ and across the globe , love following Zoe’s @fieldofroses as I do yours Erin.
    Arohanui,
    Debbie

    Reply
  7. Becca on

    EYE CANDY!!! Like crack! Thank you so much for sharing this Erin! I am such a huge starry-eyed fan of Zoe/Field of Roses. Flower-farmer stalkers unite!

    Reply
  8. Killoran on

    This is probably one of my favourite interviews you’ve done.

    “The flower field is pretty much jam packed with anything that takes our fancy, no real logic, a jumble of flowers that I can’t seem to live without. Growing bulk is something we aren’t very good at, we are very easily distracted and quickly lose focus if we have to stand picking in the same place for too long.”

    YES. Thank you both!

    Reply
  9. latiendadelasflores on

    Me encantan las rosas, sobre todo por que hace años cultivé rosales para obtener rosas para flor cortada y servir a floristerías, tuve alrededor de 4000 rosales de diferentes colores y variedades. Es fundamental que haya buena relación y simbiosis entre los floristas y los productores, así se consigue mejor calidad en los trabajos florales y en la obtención de las rosas que mejor se adaptan a las floristerías.

    Reply
  10. Anna on

    Beautiful- Zoe you should be a writer! X

    Reply
  11. Fiona kennedy on

    Fantastic educational blogpost Erin, thank you for sharing that fabulous interview and sumptuous photos. I am a fledgling flower grower in ireland and it saddens me that nearly all the roses on sale come from Kenya via Holland. Just planted 5 David Austin bareroots. Dreaming of roses! Keep sharing all your knowledge, you are an inspiration

    Reply
  12. Michele Coomey on

    It’s such an exciting time in New Zealand, growers like Zoe and Jeanine at verve flowers have helped make our little flower industry so much more interesting. I’ve been a florist in New Zealand for over 18 years and I’ve got to say up until now the product available to us has been so same same: so from where I sit you will hear rejoicing loud and clear. I love this new flower movement… Hope to visit Zoe one day soon!

    Reply
  13. Julie on

    As a New Zealander, I loved reading about this rose farm. I did have to google where Waingake Valley was,. I would love to be able to be let lookse in those flower fields. Thanks for introducing them to me.

    Reply
  14. Kathy on

    The first picture of the armful of luscious roses totally made my day. Thank you! Such beauty. What variety are they?? I’ve got space for one more rose in our garden right now and that just might be it. :)

    Reply
  15. Sherry on

    Also, I’m in agreement with Angela about those clematis. Stunning, Breathtaking!!! I kept going back to look at them again.

    Reply
  16. Sherry on

    Beautiful. This is such an encouraging post to a newbie like me. Just starting out there is a tendency to want to pattern what you do exactly after those who are successful (like floret). Thank you so much for sharing the inspirational stories of others. My favorite statement in this interview is this one:
    “I’ve learned that there is no real right or wrong way of growing its just experimenting and finding out what works best for you and your land. If you love flowers, if you love growing and long days in the field, despite all odds stacked against you, you will still grow beautiful flowers.”
    I have a thousand ideas about what I want to do and a thousand reasons why none of them will work. I am so excited to see how this journey progresses. Thank you for helping me gain entrance to this amazing world.

    Reply
  17. Lorelie (Australia) on

    I would love to know some specific varieties that Zoe grows.
    Hearing about other flower farmers is such fun and I do adore roses! Oh, who am I kidding – I adore nearly EVERY flower!! ?

    Reply
  18. Lucinda on

    Hooray started my flower growing day with another great blog from you. Love Zoe’s passion for growing. Good timing too-having trialled several ‘English Roses’ last year we are planting a lot more. They are in demand here in France. Now going to take a leaf out of Zoe’s book!

    Reply
  19. Angela on

    So happy to see Zoe featured on your blog! I’m a huge fan. Its been so helpful to me to enjoy her and other flower farms in action during our wintertime. I’m so encouraged and I’m learning so much from those who came before me and are willing to share their love of flower farming. Thank you Erin and Zoe.
    PS. Those clematis!!?? Oh my goodness!

    Reply
  20. Tara Shawn on

    The quality of this roses is very impressive, I wonder if the weather conditions are very stable to get flowers like this. I understand that in order to get great quality flowers, -specially roses- the weather conditions must be very stable in terms of temperature and humidity. Any advices??

    Reply
  21. marybeth on

    So fun and inspiring to read about the flower farming industry in NZ. Thanks for taking the time to share with us ?

    Reply
  22. Linda Wong Garl on

    I spent 3 1/2 months in NZ and was thoroughly amazed how well roses grew there….on the roadside, tucked here and there, at the end of rows of grapevines or in orchards old and new.
    Gorgeous roses in empty lots, between old buildings and places you wouldn’t expect. And most astounding thing…you could tell they weren’t cared for but just grew in these places naturally.

    Our roses here tend to be prone to mildew, deer, not enough sun..etc….I’ve tried at least 100+ times!

    Reply
  23. James on

    Wow, This was so AMAZING.
    To see the Magic, to hear the story, and then to see the beauty that is created. I love that she has over 1,000 roses, that is just CRAZY in a really good way.

    Watching others manifest their dreams is a really powerful experience. Thanks for sharing!
    I love coming back here!

    Reply
  24. Sheila on

    I LOVE reading about roses. They are endlessly fascinating to me; their petal structure, their scent, their colours and velvety gorgeousness. Someone offered me two roses about 8 years ago, which I later learned were David Austins, and once the roses had established in my garden I was completely and utterly hooked. Bought a cart load more DAs, bought some random climbers (Westerland is a standout), and rescued several destined for the plant equivalent of the pound, and they are all spectacular. I’d love to know more about which varieties she favours; I bought a DA a couple of years ago that was billed as a gorgeous fragrance but I have to confess that I’m mildly disappointed (shhh, you didn’t hear me say this) on a couple of fronts, like droopiness, scent, and leafiness. Sharing our faves and disappointments is useful, particularly when one is limited to a smallish garden.

    Reply
  25. Kathy on

    Wow, absolutely breath-taking! Thank you.

    Reply
  26. Anna on

    The photo of all the different coloured cup shaped roses is just insanely beautiful!! Great to find out more about growers on my side of the world (I’m in Australia, NZ feels close enough to almost be home). Also Zoe, good to hear that your Campanula performs like a weed, I’ve just bought a plant and some seed, I hope they do well here, too, they are soo pretty! And thanks, Erin, of course, for making all this wonderful information available to the world!!!

    Reply
  27. Erika Stephens on

    I love this blog post! I adore @fieldofroses. Her photographs always move me deeply and empathetically. The roses are completely captivate me. I too would love to meet Zoe and her mama in person one day…soon. I will be reading and re-reading this over and over again.

    Reply

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