In the little hamlet of Lyonville not far from Daylesford in Victoria, is the cutest little farm gate where you can pick up a bunch of flowers fresh from the field.
Janae and her husband Chris (and their two children) grow chemical free blooms for the public, for florists, for restaurants. It’s their second season and demand for their blooms continues to grow.
Here’s an insight into life on the land at Fleurs de Lyonville – growing beautiful flowers in partnership with nature herself.
What do you grow?
The main crops on our flower farms are dahlias, ranunculi, sweet peas and billy buttons, but we also grow small amounts of annuals such as: cosmos, bells of Ireland, amaranth, celosia, sunflowers, poppies, cornflowers, nigella, snapdragons and yarrow. In 2019 we will be focusing on building up our perennial flowers, including delphiniums, lupines, scabiosa, astilbe, echinops, sea holly, kangaroo paw and Canterbury bells.
We are also learning more about our farm and the different pests we are encountering and this is something we take into account when trialling new flowers. For example, in the 2017/2018 season we had a lot of trouble with grasshoppers and because of this we have planted hedges to attract small birds that like to feast on them.
What’s involved in cultivating these flowers?
We are trying to have a combination of different annuals, perennials, flowering hedges and trees, which means that cultivation involves a variety of techniques, steps and stages. We are really learning about how much of it is preparation and knowing what’s coming around the corner. An example would be our dahlias, as due to our climate they need to be pulled every winter, divided and replanted, which is completely different for how and when we plant our sweet peas. Sweet peas seeds are hardy annuals sown in early autumn and flower in spring.
When are you in full bloom?
At this stage we are ‘blooming’ between October through to May, with the hope of extending on either side.
Do you sell to industry or to the public?
We sell to florists and floral designers from local towns and Melbourne, as well to the public via markets, orders through Instagram, from our farm stall and we sell to our local artisanal grocer. This season we have started offering DIY seasonal flower buckets for those who like to create their own bouquets for special events such as weddings.
Challenges in growing?
Because we are a “bee-friendly” flower farm meaning that we are chemical free, we often have pest issues, like grasshoppers, earwigs and thrip! But, knowing that we are doing our best to work alongside nature encourages us to keep it natural and also knowing that we can compost the flowers or share them with our animals is a wonderful feeling. Most importantly, because we don’t use any herbicides or pesticides on our farm it means our little flower farmers are safe to roam.
Our climate can also be a challenge, as it is quite cold with occasional snow and frequent heavy frosts. But, we are learning more about when and what to plant every year.
What’s your farming strategy or philosophy?
Our passion is to produce bee-friendly grown flowers that reflect the seasons. We love growing a mixture of both native and non-native blooms, focussing on quality of stem length and classic fragrance, the way flowers used to smell.
We work together as a team with our pasture raised chickens, pigs, alpaca and a small flock of black faced Suffolk sheep to create the best natural fertiliser – they also like to nibble on spent flowers as a treat!
Our mini pigs have become a very important part of the cycle of our farm. We rotate them around the farm and they plough up all of the weeds with the roots and all and turn it into manure and make space for new flower beds. After a crop has finished, we then bring in our small chicken tractor and they dig up weeds, eat unwanted pests and help fertilise the new beds.
Why do you grow flowers?
Flowers make us happy! We always wanted to work the land in some way and when we were about to get married we started to look for DIY buckets of flowers to use that were grown locally and they were tricky to find. Eventually we came across ‘Grown and Gathered’ and traded one of our black face Suffolk lambs for gorgeous buckets of flowers and foliage. The flowers were enchanting and captured our hearts and since then we hope to enchant others with our flowers.
What do you love about it?
The excitement of new seeds germinating, flowers blooming, the intoxicating smells in the air and the joy that flowers bring others. They make people smile and provoke memories of loved ones. Also we love that we can be on the farm with our kids by our side. Our eldest loves to be amongst the flowers, espically sweet peas- the scent makes her giddy and our newest little flower farmer is always happy to be on a crochet blanket outside amongst the flowers.
What do you find challenging about life as flower farmer?
Probably ‘time’, as we are both working other jobs as well as raising our children. But as we build our farm each year we get closer to ‘living the dream’ of full-time flower farming for us of both.
Do you have a favourite floral stylist / designer?
We have many favourites, however Vivien from Flos Botanical Studio in Abbotsford, Melbourne captured our heart with an arrangement made from dahlias, scabiosa and lisianthus ‘leftovers’. She used reds, pale orange and purple colours. Magical!