Australia’s slow flower movement is a late bloomer compared to the global trend, but a new collaboration of micro-farmers hopes to encourage consumers to support the ‘grown not flown’ philosophy.
Flower enthusiast Danielle White founded Consortium Botanicus to bring together small-scale growers in the Daylesford region of Victoria, but a proliferation of farmers across the country means the group has recently expanded into a national body.
“There are hundreds of micro flower farms in the start-up phase and there are a few hundred more in the established phase across Australia,” she said.
“There’s a lot off the radar and a lot of beginning farmers building their knowledge, planting and trialling.
“We feel like we’re on the cusp of big growth, and it’s an exciting time for the slow flower movement.”
Ms White said the slow flower movement aimed to encourage small-scale, sustainable farming practices, and for consumers to buy locally.
“We grow from the soil up. We care about the environment and sustainability,” she said.
“We want to supply local to keep our flower miles down, and it also really means ‘slow’ in terms of seasonality.
“There’s a great demand for flowers of all shapes and sizes on demand, but we’re educating people to look at what’s in season and what it means to choose flowers that are out of season and flown in from other countries, and are often laden with chemicals and poor ethics.”
Floral designers are seeking out unique blooms from slow flower growers. (Supplied: Hannah Lea Robertson)
Inspired by social media
The slow flower movement has been popular in the UK and US for several years, and Ms White partly credits American grower Erin Benzakein for spreading the ‘grown not flown’ message to her hundreds of thousands of social media followers.
American flower grower Erin Benzakein has hundreds of thousands of followers on social media. (Instagram: Erin Benzakein)
“The excitement comes from her exceptional exemplar modelling for how a 2-acre farm can become a worldwide phenomenon,” Ms White said.
“It’s exciting but it’s also beautiful and visually stimulating.
“Social media has opened up a world of possibility to those who have a smaller plot — small is inspirational.
“And you can turn to your backyards if you follow methods of intensive flower seasonal and successional planting and make a really good go of a small plot of land.”
Slow grower’s fast recovery
One Australian grower inspired by the global slow flower movement is Hannah Lea Robertson, who owns Our Little Flower Farm in the northern New South Wales town of Coraki.
She started her farm in 2013, but it was wiped out by ex-Cyclone Debbie floods last year.
“It was all gone — every metre of something that you’ve bought, the hours and hours of physical labour to do that. It was heartbreaking,” she said.
“There was lots of debris, lots of plastic, quite a few dead cows out the front.
“It was pretty revolting and we were reluctant to get our hands into it, so it was months before we felt like it was OK to begin again.”
Hannah Lea Robertson tends to her flower farm mostly at night after her children have gone to bed. (ABC North Coast: Samantha Turnbull)
Ms Robertson said interest in the slow flower movement had not only helped her recover, but become more successful than ever.
“Our biggest market is floral designers because they love something unique they can’t get at the markets, and they’re reaching out to me through social media a lot of the time,” she said.
“I won’t be launching into our celebrations again without pre-preparing a bit more for Valentine’s Day.
“This year, I could have a lot more out there to meet the demand, but you learn every year.”