Australia – being effectively a continent as well as a country – enjoys a wide range of climates to support flower growing, from cool temperate on the southern coasts, desert inland, through subtropical north of Brisbane and Perth, to tropical at the top end. This is one of the reasons why Australia can supply most of the cut flowers we need for our domestic market, without the high levels of imports other nations rely on.
The three main flower types you will find are usually referred to as traditional, tropical and native.
Traditionals, tropicals and natives are often considered separately by growers and wholesalers, because they require such different climate, soil and fertigation conditions in cultivation. Most retailers and designers no longer differentiate between the three types when creating arrangements – “if it looks good, we’ll use it”, is the motto! So you will see heliconias and gerberas tied together in a bouquet; waratahs and gingers sharing a vase; or a rose and waxflower buttonhole.
This is the term sometimes used to refer to classic florist flowers, those best-sellers and familiar favourites you find wherever you travel in the world. They generally require a temperate climate to thrive, but tend to be very adaptable to climate, which is why they are so prevalent. Some traditional flowers (particularly spring bulb flowers such as tulips) need a period of winter cold to trigger growth and flowering, limiting the regions in which they can be successfully grown.Some flowers (such as roses, shown) need cooler soil temperatures to maximise flower size.
The warm humid far north fringes of Australia are where you will find most tropical flower growers, cultivating crops such as anthuriums (see photo), heliconia, ginger and strelitzia, as well as orchids, ferns and exotic foliages. These flowers and foliages do not survive frost or chill so require constant warmth, along with high humidity, and often high rainfall also.
Several Australian companies specialise in growing or supplying tropical flowers and foliages. It is a popular choice for ‘tree-change’ growers, seeking a warmer, more harmonious lifestyle.
Most tropical flowers are very eyecatching, brightly coloured and large in size. Many are also very longlasting, making them perfect for corporate work, and great value when bought for the home. Foliages tend to be as dramatic as the flowers; palm, anthurium and heliconia leaves are glossy and very versatile; alocasia and caladium have striking, distinctive patterning; cordylines show exotic colouration of pink or purple-black.
Tropical flowers – though they are grown and sold in many places around the world – are associated in our minds with sunshine, holidays and good times. That makes them ideal for events and contract floristry for hotels, restaurants, wedding venues – and similar businesses who want us to relax and enjoy ourselves.
Whether you call them native flowers (some are South African in origin); wildflowers (they’re usually commercially grown), or bush flowers (they sometimes prefer desert), they are a distinctive, easily-recognised element of modern Australian floristry.
Many Australian companies specialise in growing or supplying native flowers and foliages. They make a valuable crop in regions where the soil is dry, fast-draining, sandy; regions where other crops might struggle or require intensive fertigation regimes. And because of their uniqueness, they have strong appeal in overseas export markets.
Some florists prefer to use only native or bush flowers in their work. Many florists incorporate them into their everyday floristry, blending them with ‘traditional’ and tropical bouquet flowers.
Most wildflowers are very striking, attention-seeking, dramatic – think of banksia, waratah (see photo), gymea, leucospermum (pincushion), and protea; some are bushy and make great fillers – like thryptomene, riceflower, or waxflower; others are more delicate and subtle in size and colouring – such as boronia, blandfordia (Christmas bells) and serruria (blushing bride).
Native flowers are often interesting to use in all the stages of their growth; fresh green spring buds, colourful open flowerheads, and decorative longlasting seedpods.
Native foliages are very varied, ranging from fine flexible reeds, through delicate but durable ferns, to giant glossy leaves. Some foliages are commercially cultivated from outdoor plantations; others that need the symbiosis of the bush biome to thrive, are carefully harvested under licence and strict controls.
Many native flowers and foliages are ideal for corporate and contract work – displays in hotels, offices, restaurants, workplaces – as they are resilient, sturdy and have long vase life. Native flowers and foliages also help a business stand out as being uniquely Australian.