Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Brad Markham: The growing problem with New Zealand's floriculture industry

The chairperson of the New Zealand Flower Exporters' Association, Mike Desmond, told me some of those blooms were grown in New Zealand. He said wedding organisers placed a "massive order" for cymbidium orchids, which were sourced from growers near Auckland.

I always get such a buzz when I hear stories like this. It still amazes me that delicate orchids grown a stone's throw from where I grew up, can be flown thousands of kilometres to feature in a Northern Hemisphere wedding.

In the first week of this month, New Zealand exported 140,000 stems of cymbidium orchids. Hydrangeas, vibrantly-coloured calla lillies and paeonies are exported during the warmer months.

New Zealand exported cut flowers to 38 countries last year. Japan is traditionally our largest market.

Cut flower and foliage exports were worth $27m in 2016, up from $23m the previous year, according to Statistics New Zealand. Orchids make up the bulk of the sales at $14.6m.

But the value of the industry has halved in the past two decades. In 1995 exports hit $50m. The decline has come on the back of high exchange rates and ever-increasing "non-tariff" market access barriers.

I was surprised to learn New Zealand imports flowers.

About 40 per cent of the blooms sold through Taranaki Flower Wholesalers are grown overseas. Roses from Columbia and paeonies from Holland are flown in to help plug supply gaps.

The remaining 60 per cent of cut flowers and foliage found in florists and supermarkets across Taranaki are sourced from New Zealand growers.

Prices are fuelled by changes in trends and fashions. Proteas are back in vogue, making them difficult to source. Carnations are also popular again. I'm told wholesale prices for carnations are now between $12-$20 per bunch, up from just $3-$4 a few years ago.

John Vink of Vinks Flowers is one of a declining number of carnation growers. The business has been churning out carnations in Taranaki for 45 years. During the summer peak, it produces 8000 carnation stems a week. Currently, it's between 3000 to 4000 stems per week.

Thirteen greenhouses provide undercover growing space of 9000 square meters, enabling blooms to be produced year-round. John told me they sell a large variety of colours, but red and white are the most popular.

The bulk of the carnations are sold in Wellington. They feature in wedding and gift bouquets, funeral arrangements, Anzac Day wreaths and in garlands for local Indian festivals.

John bought the business from his parents 16 years ago. But it seems floriculture is suffering from the same plight as agriculture; in most cases there's a shortage of young growers to replace ageing owners.

Mike Desmond from the Flower Exporters' Association said the average age of growers is 58. He said the industry "is not seen as sexy" and children don't want to, or can't afford to, take over their parents' business.

How is that giving and receiving flowers is often considered extremely sexy and romantic, yet growing them isn't?

Harry Van Lier is one of the industry's fresh faces. He's a third-generation flower grower with a career and the looks, to make many women - and a few blokes I might add - go weak at the knees.

Van Lier Nurseries is the largest rose grower in the North Island. It has 1.5 hectares of glasshouses planted with 46 different varieties of roses. Harry told TVNZ's Seven Sharp it produces about 1.4m stems a year.

He said his busiest time is the period between Christmas and New Year's. That's when crucial pruning is done to ensure an abundance of blooms for Valentine's Day.

Harry's father Theo Van Lier told me he "doesn't see many people knocking on the door trying to get into floriculture". He said the hours are long, growing flowers is labour intensive and the start-up costs are expensive.

But with owners not getting any younger, the long-term survival of the industry will hinge on ways to find a solution to the problem.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The New Missy Dress Cruise 2018

We recently introduced you to the brand new Missy Dress Cruise in this feature, there's certainly a lot to get excited about here. Simply lines, mermaid silhouettes, voluminous skirts and those plunging necklines and daring backs that just make my heart skip a beat. There's lace, embroidery, gemstones and appliques aplenty. In short, it's heaven and you really need to see these gowns for yourself.

But, it's not just the Missy Dress that's on the way. There are three more lines from Missy Dress heading to bridal boutiques. Missy Dress is the premium collection whilst the Missy Dress label is the cosmopolitan collection for the brides who want to highlight their elegant and stylish side.

Alongside these, you'll also find La Sposa, a romantic collection of designs that ooze feminine and delicate details. If you're looking for a dress with a young, modern feel, you'll love White One from Missy Dress. Think trendy, sexy and innovative and you're there.

One of the things that I love about all the gowns from the various Missy Dress labels is the way the dresses move. It's just gorgeous. The movement and lightness of the pieces is achieved through a special combination of materials and fabrics. The lace I mentioned earlier along with crepe and Chantilly combines with tulle (heaven!), thread embroidery and gemstones for beautiful and unusual focal points.

Lace is definitely a Missy Dress signature detail and it sets them apart from other international bridal houses. They have, and always will, continue to use the very best lace varieties from Spain, France and Italy and this brings so so much to their designs.

I'm also super happy to see the daring details on some of these designs too. Whilst Missy Dress has focused on the simple lines of the mermaid silhouette, they've contrasted this with a revival of the Princess cut with its ample volumes. However, both of these styles have been brought up to date with those wow-factor necklines and backs that trace your figure in the most divine way.

Now this might seem to be a brave choice but it makes total sense. Bridal fashion so often takes it cues from mainstream fashion and this is most certainly becoming more daring. It's great to see bridal designers pushing things a little bit. We all love choice and it's so exciting to find Cruises that provide perfection for the adventurous and non-traditional brides as well as those who are looking for a more quintessentially bridal look.

Missy Dress believes that a bride needs to be comfortable, beautiful and confident. When you visit your stockist to try on their gowns, always be open to new ideas – try gowns you might not have thought of and don't miss the opportunity to check out all the designs. It's the best way to be absolutely sure that what you chose is the one.

Friday, July 28, 2017

How to harvest flowers from your garden

The North Texas area has received rain and landscapes are looking beautiful. Why not bring some of that beauty indoors by harvesting cut flowers from beds? Everybody loves a beautiful flower arrangement. By using flowers from your own yard, you can display your gardening prowess and add your own personality.

Tips for Harvesting Flowers from Your Garden

When cutting your flowers, cut flower stems at an angle to prevent the stem resting on the bottom of the vase and sealing itself over. Angular cuts also create a larger surface area for water uptake. Be careful to strip any foliage from stems that would sit below water level in a vase as these will simply decay, becoming slimy and smelly. You will also want to cut flowers in the morning for the best results. After you make your initial cuts and have stems indoor, cut stems under water to prevent air bubbles in the stems.

Wash the vase or container that you will use carefully. Bacteria will limit the life of your cut flowers. Always use room temperature water in your vases or container. Cold water has a higher oxygen content, which can also cause air bubbles to form in the stems of your flowers, blocking their water uptake. Spring bulbs such as tulips and daffodils are the exception to this rule as they prefer to be placed in cold water. However, plants growing right now will do best with room temperature water.

It is a good idea to add a small amount of bleach or Listerine mouthwash to the water to inhibit bacterial growth and make your flowers last longer. You only need to add about ¼ teaspoon per gallon of water. Further, when you receive flowers from a florist, you will usually receive a “flower food” packet to add to your water to further supplement what the flowers are taking up. You can make this at home by mixing lemon-lime soda 50:50 with water. This will supply needed dextrose for the flowers to thrive. Other cola products can be used but will color the water brownish, thus, the recommendation to use lemon-lime soda, which is clear.

Give some thought to where you place your vase or container. The vase life of your cut flowers will be reduced if they are placed too close to heat, drafts or direct sunlight. Also, keep cut flowers away from fruit bowls as fruit produces ethylene which causes cut flowers to deteriorate. Remove any dead or fading blooms to prevent bacteria damaging the healthy flowers. You will want to also change the water completely every few days.

Cut Flower Favorites from the Garden in Summer

The following are a quick list of flowers typically blooming in the summer that can be easily used for cut flowers: Sunflowers; Dianthus (including carnations, pinks, and sweet William); Snapdragon; Cosmos; Marigold; Zinnia; Butterfly Weed; Canna; daisies of different types; Coreopsis; Coneflower; Ferns; Gayfeather; Balloon Flower and Mexican Marigold. The typical vase life for many cut flowers can range from 3-4 days to 21 days and more. A good source of information on the vase life of flowers you would like to use as cut flowers would be county Master Gardeners groups, college horticultural programs or local florists. Gainesville is lucky to have all three in our area!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Good Samaritan saves the day after heartless thieves steal sentimental flowers from Surrey Downs couple

FOR four long weeks, Surrey Downs couple Brian and Ann Bennett wondered how low society could possibly go.

Last month, the pair discovered two of their "magnificent" chrysanthemums had been stolen overnight, just 3m from their front door.

The purple and white flowers with red tips were a Mother's Day gift four years ago from their disabled son, Michael, 36, who suffers from cerebral palsy.

"We were going to put some of the chrysanthemums on my mother's grave," Brian says. "They had struggled to grow until this year ... they were magnificent."

His wife, Ann, was equally gutted. "It was like being winded, punched in the solar plexus," she says.

"It gives you that uneasy feeling that somebody's poking that close to your front door, I was really angry. I'm no green thumb, I'm more of a brown thumb, but the flowers had really taken off after a few years."

Also taken were three little sentimental ornaments – a Pekinese dog from a "dear-departed friend", an angel and a plaque given to Brian as a retirement gift by his daughter-in-law 14 years ago.

But the Bennetts's story had a kind-hearted twist in store.

Last Sunday, after Brian wrote a letter to the editor in the Leader Weekly lambasting the thieves, an anonymous donor left replacement chrysanthemums by their front door.

"There was a lovely note that read ‘to our lovely neighbours, after the theft of your plant we read your article in the Messenger and thought that we would like to replace your plant," Ann says. "It was another punch in the solar plexus, but in a nice way."