Imagine hearing that 6000 roses – of the most beautiful variety – could potentially be bulldozed.
Up until two years ago, a very busy rose farm on the Bellarine Peninsula, Victoria, grew the most divine old-world roses. These stunners were in hot demand by florists all around Australia. David Austins, Floribunda and Hybrid Teas flourished out in the open field at Soho Rose Farm in Drysdale under the constant care and hard work of Clare Russell and husband Wally.
Soho Rose Farm could count the Queen, Oprah Winfrey and Dame Elisabeth as clients and their blooms attended many a high profile party or celebrity wedding.
Being so close to Drysdale, our floristry business, Little Twig Flowers, was pretty lucky to be able to swing by regularly for freshly picked roses, and I’ll never forget the sight and scent of Mum’s car boot full of David Austin’s the day before my wedding almost ten years ago.
So when we heard Clare and Wally were hanging up the secateurs (for a well deserved rest), we, along with many others, were a little sad, worried and hopeful that someone would take on the demanding task of growing roses on this scale.
Thank goodness for Kristy Tippett, a florist at Cecilia Fox, who also wanted these roses to live on. Kristy had always wanted to grow flowers, so when she heard the property at Drysdale had sold, but the roses would likely be bulldozed, she and husband Brock decided to bring every single rose plant to their farm in Dean.
Kristy and Brock (and six children) have a large potato, cropping and cattle farm (and now roses of course) in the rich volcanic soil between Ballarat and Daylesford. This time last year, they nervously waited to see if the roses had travelled well…
“Going into it we didn’t really know what to expect,” Kristy remembers.
“We had no idea how many roses the plants would produce and if what they did produce would be even be useful.
“But thankfully, our first season exceeded all our expectations! They produced so well and we had A LOT of roses.
“We took a huge risk, and jumped in the deep end. Thankfully it was all worth it!” Kristy said.
I had a chat with Kristy about this major project and her dream for Soho Rose Farm:
Kristy: At Soho we grow garden roses, all our roses are grown outdoors in a field just as nature intended. From Spring to late Autumn we harvest roses from approx. 9000 plants.
“My dream for Soho is to grow the varieties of garden rose that are the most nostalgic, evocative and create that floral magic like no other flower can do.”
How did the roses go with the move from Drysdale?
While the plants established themselves really well and put out lots of buds and growth, there was a few ‘to be expected’ things that come up at the beginning of the season. Naturally as the plants roots had been disturbed, they need to put down their new roots and we found the bloom sizes were not as large and stem lengths not as long as previous seasons at Drysdale.
As the season went on by the end of the Autumn the blooms and stems lengths were back to their previous sizes. We did not do anything special to the plants last year, we left them alone to just do their thing. We are incredibly lucky to have rich volcanic soil that was already dense in everything the roses needed to thrive.
What’s involved in growing and harvesting roses on this scale?
We grow many different varieties of David Austin, Hybrid Tea and Floribunda garden roses. All our roses are hand-picked and processed by myself and our incredible team everyday during our growing season.
Each bloom is harvested depending on variety, the weather, when it will be used by a florist and many other variables that come into play. Throughout the season our plants are regularly deadheaded to promote new growth and pests and diseases constantly monitored.
Image: Catherine Elise Photography
Flower farming can look like an idealic lifestyle to many but it is also a lot of very physically and mentally demanding work bound by the pressures of the commercial floral world. I like to think I am up for the challenge though.
What do you love about growing roses?
I am passionate about providing a locally grown product to florists that is of an exceptional quality. Growing a product that can dramatically change the scope of an arrangement is an absolute thrill for me. As well as watching the cycle of the plant, it continually amazes me the simple beauty found in each bloom.
I see the relationship between a grower and a florist as one that can be incredibly powerful, being able to work together to achieve creative outcomes feels really rewarding to me.
Do you remember what it was that sparked your passion for flowers?
I have loved flowers all my life, my earliest memories of flowers are from my Grandmas garden. Her vivid jacaranda tree and flouncy apricot roses in the front year, maidenhair ferns in the fernery, gypsophila grown en masse beside our cubby house. It was my dream!
Thrips! They love to live in and eat all the most sought after and loved wedding roses in blush and white. If you aren’t on the front food of combating insect outbreaks then you are can almost loose an entire flush of roses to them.
Do you sell to the industry or the public?
We only sell our wholesale roses to the floral industry. I wholeheartedly support the florists, their businesses and their skilled trade. We sell pre-made bouquet and vase arrangements to the public that are created by our own team of florists at Soho.
How is your floristry background helping with your new business? It must help to know what florists look for?
It helps a lot! Being able to both visually and technically interpret what a florist hopes to create with our roses has been invaluable at times. I feel really excited when a florist trusts me with a brief and I am able to select the best roses in the field accordingly based on my knowledge.
Last season I was really surprised by how limited florists knowledge was in regards to the differences between garden roses and glass house rose varieties. Next season I hope to educate other florists more about the nuances of the bloom and how they can get the most from their cut flower garden roses.
To get in touch / order – send a message to Kristy via:
Immersive rose and fragrance experience
Kristy is teaming up with a fragrance specialist, Samantha Taylor of The Powder Room, to offer an immersive rose and fragrance experience this Spring – 23 November. See here for details.