D & S GROGAN: An Interview with a Grower
When visiting the Grogan property this past October the first thing we noticed was the beautifully perfumed aroma wafting through the air.
Working for many years in this industry can tend to ‘block out’ scent receptors when it comes to flowers, but Matthiola incana (stock flower) has this heady, almost spice like scent that is hard to ignore.
We were greeted by Denis Grogan and soon after his lovely wife Suntara appeared from a processing shed where she had been busy planting seeds into trays, ready to grow into one of the many product lines the Grogan’s produce.
A tour of their property showed us large greenhouses that Denis built himself to house his ‘indoor crop’ lines such as: Stock, Asters and Celosia. At this time the main greenhouse was filled with rows of colourful single and double-flowered Stock.
We then wandered to where they grow their sunflowers - a large outdoor plot with neat rows of plants with flowers buds starting to emerge. We had to use our imagination as to what this field would look like closer to processing time as everything was still very fresh and green.
Denis has answered a few of our Grower Profile questions below. Have a read through to better understand what it’s like to produce flowers here in New Zealand:
1) When was your business founded?
2) Have flowers always been your primary crop?
3) Is it a family run business? If so who are the family members involved?
A family run business. Suntara, my wife, works full time and I work weekends as I have a weekday job as a horticultural technical field rep.
4) How do you grow your product lines? (under glass? In trays? Etc)
Greenhouses....grown in soil
5) How to you pick/process your product lines?
We have a central flower processing area with access to the 4 greenhouses. The grading tables are designed as work stations with stem cutters and hand sleevers in close proximity.
Flowers are pulled from the beds with the roots still on and are carried in bundles of 50 to the work stations.
Once 400 stems have been collected leaf stripping and grading begins. Flowers are bunched, sleeved and placed in buckets which has Florrisant preservative added.
Later the flowers are put into the coolstore and later in the evening delivered to the auction.
6) Tell us what you love about growing flowers for the NZ market.
It’s great when there is a strong demand for the varieties and colours of the flowers we grow. Each year we try to have something new. The NZ market is very receptive to new varieties of flowers especially when they have great vase life.
7) How many stems per season do you produce in each of your product lines?
8) How do you keep up with the trends in the market?
Online flower seed catalogues
NZ seed suppliers catalogues
9) How many staff does it take to keep your business running?
10) What makes NZ Grown Products superior to the rest?
Freshness... often flowers are picked one day and the following morning they are on the auction floor. Grading, quality and variety.
11) Explain more about the plant propagation side of your business please
All of the varieties of flowers we grow are raised from seed.
We propagate all the plants we grow.
Stock, Asters and Celosia are raised in 144 cell trays.
The trays are placed on raised benches covered in steel mesh which provides air root pruning to ensure the roots are formed inside the plug.
The plants are folia fed weekly. Biologicals are also included to stimulate plant health and root growth.
Sunflowers are raised in 3.3cm pete pots.
Sunflowers do not like their roots being disturbed. Pete pots provide minimal disturbance at planting. They are planted 14 days after sowing.
We sow and plant just about every week.
We aim to have a consistent supply of flowers but this does vary due to the vagaries of seasonal weather.
We are so lucky to have such amazing floral products propagated, grown, processed and sold here in New Zealand. Remember when buying your flowers to ask for New Zealand Grown!
Flower Profile: Stock Matthiola incana
What does it look like?
Clusters of round double flowers forming a spike at the top of each stem. They’re generally available in white, hot pink, pale pink, purple, lilac, and yellow.
When can you buy them?
Both Spray and Double stock are available in New Zealand from May to December
Where can you buy them from?
Any NZ Florist or flower retailer
How do you look after them?
As with any fresh cut flower: Remove all the foliage below the water level. Cut the stems on a slant with scissors and place them in a clean vase with fresh water and flower food.