Business blooms after Covid blow

A SMALL property overlooking Lake Barrington is proving to be the ideal place to grow top-quality flowers.

Keen gardeners Karen Charleston and Warwick Smith established their Lakeview Flower Farm after Covid impacted their cafe business.

“When Covid happe ned in the North West we lost our accommodation here and the cafe had to close down because we weren’t set up for takeaways and things,” Mrs Charleston said.

“I just picked some flowers and put something on Marketplace to say they would be outside our house in Ulverstone and people were lined up waiting for me to put them out. So, after that I thought maybe there’s a need for flowers.”

The flower farm is now in its third year of production and is steadily increasing.

The couple specialise in Australian native flowers as well as the popular proteas, which are originally from South Africa.

Harvesting season starts with warratah flowers generally in September.

Mrs Charleston said the warratahs were a little early this year due to the drier and warmer season.

There are about 600 plants and 28 different varieties on the farm.

Proteas are one of their main crops and they will flower year-round depending on the variety.

Mrs Charleston said the protea season was controlled by the weather.

“Being a native of South Africa they do tend to like the warmer and drier weather,” she said.

“I do lose a few to frost each year so the idea is to get them up off the ground as much as possible to help protect them.”

At present they are also harvesting leucaspermum or pin cushion flowers as they are commonly known.

The couple sell their flowers at the Devonport Farmers Market and also supply a couple of local florists.

“Because we’re only in the early stages, especially with the proteas, I always knew it would be a four to five year plan before I’m up and going full time,” Mrs Charleston said.

“I’ve got a few but sometimes the stems aren’t the longest at the moment for florists, so that can be a bit of an issue. That’s where the farmers market is good because I can sell the shorter stemmed ones there.”

While traditional flowers remain popular, Mrs Charleston said there was a lot more demand these days for native blooms.

“They have a longer vase life and I like them because the native wildlife generally doesn’t eat them,” she said.

“I think because they do last, they can sit out of water and even dry really well, that’s why a lot of people are liking them.”

Mr Smith said they were also good for use on graves and memorials because wildlife will not eat them and they also last a long time.

Of their range so far, Mrs Charleston said the red warratahs were one of the most popular flowers.

Mrs Charleston said they like to plant a number of different varieties of flowers to see how they produce and grow on their farm.

There are now plans to expand their production area and introduce more flower species including some banksias.

The farm is spray free, so any weed control is done by hand.

While it is physically hard work, the couple are enjoying their new business.

“I love being outside and, growing up on a farm, I was always outside, so I enjoy that side of it and I enjoy the work side of it,” Mrs Charleston said.

Mr Smith said one of the highlights each year is always harvest time, when the results of their hard work is easy to see.

“Being able to walk around and pick what you’ve grown is really enjoyable,” he said.

The couple say being able to sell at the farmers market is a good outlet for their flowers, which are not suitable for the florists and they now have a number of people who buy from them regularly.

Now is peak flowering period on the farm, which is about a month behind most flower farms.

“Warratah for instance are finished in town when ours are just starting,” Mrs Charleston said.

“It’s great for the florists because it means they can have them in the shops for longer.”

The property used to have an onsite cafe which operated for about 10 years.

The couple said they may consider opening an agritourism business on the farm down the track, which would combine their two interests.

To find out more go to the Lakeview Flower Farm Facebook page.