Flower tourism in bloom at Tenterfield

THE New England region’s cool climate is perfect for growing a large range of flowers, and a few local businesses are now encouraging flower tourism in the area.

The town boasts two florists, a nursery, two small-scale flower farms, and a lavender farm at nearby Liston.

With floristry becoming a popular hobby, flower enthusiasts are prepared to travel for hours to attend regular workshops on flower picking and arrangement with freelance writer and photographer Annabelle Hickson.

White Cottage Flower Farm owner Mandy Reid been in Tenterfield for 22 years, running a nursery and vintage wares shop, but decided to set up her own flower farm, where visitors can pick their own posies, a year ago.

“I started with an acre of English-style gardens, because the climate’s perfect for it, with really cold winters and usually we get a lot of summer storms,” Mrs Reid said.

“Then I started a picking bed for ladies to come and cut everything that’s in season when they come to visit the nursery.

“There’s nothing nicer than going into a paddock and picking your own flowers, and you get a lovely fragrance with fresh flowers.”

Demand in the first year has been incredible, particularly for peonies, which only flower for six to seven weeks.

“I put in 70 peony plants, which are a very popular because not everybody can grow them – you need very cold weather,” Mrs Reid said.

“It takes about three years for them to get established, so I ended up selling only five bunches of peonies last year, but one of my established plants had 18 flowers, which was great. I’m hoping we’ll get more flowers this year, and they’ll be established properly in 2019.”

The next step for White Cottage will be planting about 150 roses.

“I’ll be introducing new plants all the time, and a lot of our flowers are used in floral workshops with Annabelle Hickson,” Mrs Reid said.

Tenterfield’s other flower farm is a very new venture, with the first flowers picked last spring.

Willowbank Flower Farm owner Ally Jones, whose parents Chris and Annie Jones own eight-acre show garden Glenrock Gardens, sells flowers to local florists, while working part-time at a nursery.

She moved to the area with her parents at the beginning of 2016, but in April last year she had time to put her plan to establish her own garden in place while recovering from a car accident.

“I spent that time when I was bedridden setting up the business, and by spring, the first crop of tulips and ranunculus was up,” Miss Jones said.

She’s still in the trial stage, growing small numbers of many different flowers to see what will grow well.

“I’ve grown tulips, ranunculus, dahlias and a whole assortment of annuals, and at the moment selling to local florists wholesale.

“I’d like to do a bit more with the range of dahlias because they're fantastic in this region.

“My long-term goal is to create a bit of a destination for flower people to visit and purchase flowers from the farm.

“I don’t ever want to be a large-scale flower farmer, because I’m supportive of seasonal, local, small-scale, sustainable farming.”