On top of a hill in Gisborne lies the stunning property of growers Anna & Ray from 302 Flower Farm. They grow a huge range of flowers chemically free all year round, including proteas, banksias, leucadendrons, and the most gorgeous spring and summer annuals & perennials. If you dream of one day having a flower farm or garden of your own, you will love this story.
How did you first get into flower farming?
We bought the 10 acre property in 1992 and always wanted to produce something from the land. Mt Gisborne has beautiful, rich, red volcanic soil so we knew the land could grow something. Both our parents loved growing vegetables and flowers so we had lots of inspiration. We have to rely totally on rain water to fill our tanks, so we decided to plant proteas and natives which require less water once established.
Anna has always loved beautiful gardens, and loved designing with plants. That love led to expanding what we grow to include other varieties of flowers. She would buy English garden magazines, take note of any interesting plants, and dream of one day growing them.
You do have such a wonderful, unique selection – do you have anyone that inspires your planting choices?
Anna is behind (mostly) all the choices of plants; her inspiration comes from other gardens all over the world and other gardeners, both locally and internationally.
Can you tell us about the way you grow your flowers?
The proteas and natives receive very little extra care once they are established, but when small the plants might receive some diluted Seasol or liquid fertiliser.
The other annuals and perennials receive a liquid feed from time to time, but we also use bags and bags of mushroom compost from a local producer to improve the soil around the perennials. This compost application is done throughout the year at various times, and works to protect the plants, acting like a mulch and improving the soil at the same time. There’s always lots of worm activity under the compost!
We use lots of mulch around the bigger plants such as the proteas and natives and make it ourselves on the farm by mulching branches, twigs and other material.
What are your favourite and least favourite things about growing and why?
The sheer joy of watching life emerge from a seed or a cutting; watching the life cycle of a plant as it establishes and grows is, in itself, rewarding. Creating beautiful gardens with flowering plants and shrubs is also rewarding, as I watch the various cutting garden areas take shape, form and texture.
I don’t think I have a least favourite… when a plant fails to thrive it’s disappointing but it’s part of life and work on the land. The garden teaches you acceptance.
You just try again, work with nature, the seasons and the conditions. Our conditions are a bit different, as the farm is elevated. This gives us stunning, unsurpassed views, but it is very challenging – growing on sloping ground is much harder than growing on flat ground.
Farming flowers has not been your only passions. How do you balance two very exhausting jobs?
(Ray is a recently retired P.E, Science, Chemistry & Biology teacher, and Anna is a Psychologist specialising in trauma)
Anna : The garden is everything to me, it helps me breathe. It helps me think. It nurtures me, feeds me. It has been the perfect balance to a demanding job. I go outside and walk amongst the plants, trees and grass, and I feel connected to the natural world.
The Psychoanalytic understanding of “Reverie”;A quiet state of being in which image, bodily sensation, thoughts, words, sounds or ideas wander in and out of awareness without any particular aim or intention.
– Playful, unconscious wanderings of the mind.
I often find myself in the garden in a state of reverie – thoughts come in unsolicited; sometimes the thoughts are of a patient, sometimes an ‘A-ha’ moment, or a solution to a problem I could not see before… an insight or deeper understanding gained.
The garden has given me a freedom of mind. It nurtures me.
Could you share your future plans or vision for your beautiful farm?
We are focusing on growing the range of blooms we offer, growing the cutting garden, extending gardens beds, and designing new garden areas. We are investigating polytunnels to help us extend the season of softer blooms and discover other growing advantages. Ray is keen to extend the dahlia patch, whilst Anna is planting new shrubs and trees to add interest to the garden and to offer diverse foliage for using in bouquets/bunches.
We would love to organise more events such as Farm Open Days to share the beauty of Mount Gisborne with the community, and we are also keen to explore various workshops on the farm.
The stunning property at 302 Flowers is one of my favourite places to source locally grown (and chemical free!) flowers. Anna truly has a florist’s eye when it comes to selecting which varieties to plant, and grows flowers that I can’t find anywhere else in Victoria.
Every time I visit I receive keen information about growing, gardening, and cutting flowers. It’s incredibly rewarding as a florist to have conversations like this and to be so close to the source of the flowers we sell. Anna & Ray share their knowledge freely and I always enjoy talking all things gardening with them.
I hope you enjoyed reading about their beautiful farm as much as I enjoyed sharing it with you. I strongly suggest keeping an eye out for any Open Days they might host in the future, and if you travel to the Gisborne area, be sure to take home some of their flowers for yourself. They have a seasonal range of their farm grown flowers available on their website for delivery in Gisborne and the Macedon Ranges. They also sell ready-to-go bunches on the first Sunday of every month at the Gisborne Olde Time Market, or for those closer to the City bunches are available through Ceres in Brunswick.