Business blossoms for flower-farming florists

At first glance it’s no more than a simple roadside business selling fresh flowers.

But take a second look as you head up Wainui Road and, in behind the stall outside Raglan Masterchef Aaron Brunet’s old house, you’ll get a glimpse of the flourishing flower farm that has sprouted over the past two years.

Raglan Buds, as the venture is called, occupies three acres spread across two properties and is the brainchild of good friends and neighbours Kristel Lindfield and Jenny Gaunt.

The block, in a sheltered valley running down to the Wainui stream, is where these young 30-something mothers are indulging a shared passion as small-scale “flower farmer florists”.

They now have a blooming year-round business growing beautiful flowers and designing unique floral arrangements.

“We were already friends, at the mama stage and growing veggies by permaculture,” Jenny recounts. “Three kids each at kindy and school, and thinking ahead …”

Then they “got the vision” and Raglan Buds was born.

Buds because they were buddies, and of course flowers bud before they bloom. But they admit the catchy name’s also a “cheeky” nod to a certain plant that enjoys some popularity locally.

Jenny and Kristel have a common love of colours and also share an artistic bent, but admit to being completely self taught as flower farmer florists. They found all they needed to know through books and online courses, and two years on their novel backyards business is literally thriving.

Now they regularly supply bouquets to the local Four Square – which they describe as their staple outlet – as well as to The Shack and Raglan Roast’s Food Department.

But it is weddings which remain their biggest source of business, they say.

The pair also  supply the Direct2Florists online shop – with same-day delivery of their freshly picked flowers further afield – run flower workshops from a teepee in Jenny’s backyard and restock each day their roadside stall, which is “popular with surfers and boaties on their way home (from Manu Bay)”.

It’s all full-on and full-time, they reckon, as life revolves too around their hubbies and children.

Kristel and Jenny say the beauty of actually growing the flowers themselves is that there’s no production chain from farm to market to wholesaler. “We can just pop outside and pick a fresh bunch of flowers (for an instant order) which lasts a lot longer.”

The pair grow from seed or tuber, nurture the plants themselves and have the satisfaction of seeing the whole process from start to finish.

“We can grow specific colours for brides too,” Jenny reveals. Kristel, like Jenny dressed for work in a floppy black sunhat and gumboots the morning the Chronicle visited, elaborates: “We have a lot of out-of-town brides come (visit) for that personal connection.”

From there they plan what they plant, working the land sustainably with no-dig gardening and permaculture techniques, using neither toxic chemicals nor sprays.

The flowers are usually picked as fast as they grow, Kristel says. “It’s a constant cycle of successive sowing and harvesting.”

They alternate the workload between them, each doing floristry and orders in their studio one week then the hard graft of farming – harvesting, planting, weeding – the next.

The work pattern has evolved naturally. “It has just flowed,” says Kristel.

With such flexibility one can cover for the other, as happened last month when Kristel held the fort in Raglan while Jenny journeyed to Cuba to meet the local florists of Havana. She was inspired to go there to see for herself how resourceful the locals were in terms of gardening self-sufficiently, and wasn’t disappointed.

Jenny says flower farming is always interesting and forever changing with the seasons – even in winter.

“We’re playing with nature really,” she adds.

Edith Symes